Moscow: Russian seismologists have condemned the conviction of seven Italians of manslaughter over their failure to forewarn residents about an earthquake which hit central Italy in 2009, RIA Novosti reported.
The city of L'Aquila was decimated by the quake, which measured more than 6.3 on the Richter scale and killed over 300 people.
A group of seven, all members of an official body called the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, have been found guilty of negligence and malpractice in their evaluation of the danger of an earthquake.
A court in L'Aquila city Monday sentenced the defendants, the six scientists and an ex-official, to six years each in prison and slapped a fine on them.
Alexei Zavyalov, head of a seismology laboratory at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Physics of the Earth, said it was wrong to imprison people "for making an inaccurate forecast".
"The situation with the Italian seismologists throws us back to medieval times," he said in an interview with the daily Izvestia.
"We are unable to say exactly whether or not there will be an earthquake. Scientists share the information that they have at a given moment. The current level of development does not allow seismology to make an absolutely accurate forecast."
The precedent in Italy may even freeze the further development of seismology, he warned.
According to Leonid Starkov, a leading expert at the Fobos Centre, said: "There is always an element of inaccuracy in any forecast."
"You can understand people, but those are only emotions."
Serious earthquakes take place in Italy every 30 years, but it is difficult to predict where exactly it will strike, he said.