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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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