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ArmA devs arrested over espionage suspicions in Greece
 ArmA  devs arrested over espionage suspicions in Greece
September 11, 2012 | By Eric Caoili




Greek authorities have arrested two developers from Czech studio Bohemia Interactive (ArmA) over espionage suspicions, after they allegedly captured video and photos of a military installation.

The pair claims they were collecting reference materials for an upcoming ArmA game near an army base on the Greek island of Lemnos, according to reports from local news sites.

Though the police hasn't charged the two yet, it will transport them to another island, Lesbos, where it will provide the district court with information about their activities.

Bohemia's ArmA series for PC (short for Armed Assault) is best known for popular zombie mod DayZ, but it's also praised for its realistic details, from its weapons to enemy artificial intelligence. The next entry for the tactical shooter, ArmA 3, takes place in a near-future Greece, featuring locations like Lemnos.

Jan Kunt, executive producer for Bohemia, told CVG that this isn't the first time the studio visited the island: "There have been developers on Lemnos before taking detailed photographs of things like dirt, fields and fauna. They take photos of lots of flowers and shrubbery and trees to get the environment accurate."

The developer has had problems with the local government in the past -- Lemnos' mayor previously spoke against Bohemia using publicly available maps for reference, citing strategic concerns due to tensions with neighboring country Turkey.

And in 2001, Greek authorities arrested 14 British and Dutch plane spotters for allegedly taking photos of an air show at a military base, and sentenced them to several years in prison over espionage charges -- though the court eventually overturned most of their convictions.

"I'm not sure the situation will ease out. The Greeks arrested [people for] taking pictures of planes. Seems like the Greeks have lots of problems and want to focus attention elsewhere," said Kunt, referring to the country's current economic troubles.

[Update: Bohemia Interactive CEO Marek Spanel has issued a statement confirming that two of the studio's employees have been arrested in Lemnos, but noted they were only travelling in the region "with the sole purpose of experiencing the island's beautiful surroundings."

"Since its establishment in 1999, Bohemia Interactive has created games based only upon publicly available information. We always respect the law and we've never instructed anybody to violate the laws of any country. The same is true for ArmA 3," Spanel said.

"Currently, all our effort goes towards supporting the guys over there, as well as their friends and families affected by this difficult situation. We sincerely hope that this is an unfortunate misunderstanding of their passion as artists and creators of virtual worlds."

Update 2: Bohemia has released an additional statement, reiterating that Ivan Buchta and Martin Pezlar were visiting the island as tourists, and that their holiday was solely due to their interest in the island, rather than to take pictures for Arma 3.

"They took photographs and videos in public areas, as countless tourists arriving to enjoy the beauty and hospitality of Greece may well do," says the statement. "These included a short video as they drove through the main road passing around the international airport, where in one short part of the video off in the distance some hangars and other buildings of the complex can be seen."

Buchta and Pezlar put out their own statement, saying that the entire ordeal has been "a completely absurd misunderstanding that will certainly be quickly explained."]


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Comments


Michael Joseph
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This is rediculous. Developers and gamers in and outside of Greece need to show their support for the two Bohemia Interactive developers. If you'reGreek or Czech you should be writing your respective state departments and representatives obviously.

I'm not sure what people can do to show their support otherwise. Suggestions? Perhaps
http://store.steampowered.com/agecheck/app/33900/

Come on Greece, you're embarrassing yourself.

George Katsaros
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Being Greek, I can say that Greece is not like America. Military and police forces aren't too kind to outsiders and wont hesitate acting on suspicion. I do hope the developers are alright and wish this wouldn't have happend. Me knowing how people are over there, I would've thought twice before possibly provoking something.

Arthur Souza
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And you think that police forces on the US are kind to outsiders? Hahaha :P

Kyle Redd
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I guess they should be grateful Arma 3 isn't set in Saudi Arabia.

Jeremy Reaban
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Being occupied by the Turks for several hundred years has left a scar on the Greeks psyche. They're very, very touchy about their military installations and well, just in general about spies.

You would think that the ArmA devs would know this. There were some British trainspotters (well, plane spotters) that got into trouble a while ago about ten years ago

Mathieu Rouleau
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At least they'll get to meet some real lesbians.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I was incarcerated and forced onto a plane back to the USA (by armed guard) last month in England when I tried to visit a game studio there for an interview without a work visa, so I can relate to their experience. Unfortunately it sounds like they will be in custody a bit longer than I was. Game developers don't get a lot of respect yet.

A S
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Respectfully, these situations are hardly similar. The Bohemia devs were arrested for doing something innocent and not against the laws (to my knowledge) of Greece. You explicitly broke the laws of the UK and got sent back to the US for it.

Chris McLeod
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This is awful. We should write their government or something. This is kind of outside my area of expertise though.

Eric Feliu
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Certainly I feel for the 2 developers. I am sure they did not mean any harm. Maybe they should have asked for permission to take pictures first? Ignorance of laws/rules is not an excuse to break them. If you are in a foreign country you should always err on the side of caution.

Jeff Yaskus
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lesson to be learned here - the old adage "its easier to ask for forgiveness, instead of permission" ... is NOT always true.

In other words -- all this could have been avoided had they (a) gone to the local mayor or such and asked for permission (b) been aware of the risks with photographing foreign military installations and/or (c) hired a local guide, who likely could have taken care of steps A & B as well.

Sure, it would have cost a few thousand or so of the local coin ... but that's just pennies these days.


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