The L'Aquila trial has now started with seven Italian officials and leading seismologists charged with manslaughter after failing to inform of the possible dangers of the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that killed 309 people in 2009.

The trial has made waves in the scientific community and attracted huge media attention, as the outcome could prove to be extremely controversial. Seismologists from inside and outside Italy have criticised the indictments, with the backing of the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Also last year, more than 5,000 scientists signed an open letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in support of the defendants.

The officials and scientists charged include personnel from the national Civil Protection Agency and several seismologists, including Enzo Boschi who is the former president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.

The defendant's legal team have already announced they intend to argue that earthquakes cannot be predicted with certainty.

The affair arose after a group of officials from Italy's emergency "risks commission" met in the central city of L'Aquila to discuss a series of tremors that had particularly worried the inhabitants of the region, but reportedly only issued as a result of the meeting "reassuring signals".

The prosecution on the other hand finds the "national commission for forecasting and predicting great risks" provided "incomplete, imprecise and contradictory information" after their meeting.

The lack of anticipation of the severity of the quake has now angered the local city government which is now seeking damages of €50m in the case.

The quake ravaged the city, greatly damaging its medieval centre, as well as surrounding villages, causing more than 65,000 people to be left homeless.

"We are seeking justice," declared Alfredo Rossini, prosecutor, as he entered the court.

In addition, Italian investigators have launched another investigation aiming at uncovering how and why relatively modern buildings, including a dormitory building that was supposedly quake-proof, collapsed.

Investigators will also try to understand why students who were in the buildings were not evacuated more rapidly.

The defendants now face up to 15 years in jail as well as damages of 50m euros (£45m).

Only one of the seven defendants, Bernardo De Bernardinis, former vice-president of the Civil Protection Agency's technical department was present on the opening day of the trial.

"I thought it was important to be here because this is my land, and I also wanted to underline the professionalism and the quality of the other public officials," he said "I am from Abruzzo and I owe it to the people of this area, " Bernardinis told the press.

With the trial set to last years, the outcome will have an impact on the scientific and more particularly the seismologist community as a verdict that finds them guilty will have several ramifications.