A Greek news website, News247, has recently reported that two Czech nationals, aged 28 and 33, were arrested on the island of Lemnos, after they were caught photographing military facilities on the island. The catch? As Marek Spanel (CEO of Bohemia Interactive) confirmed, the arrested were employees of the studio taking reference photos for the upcoming ARMA III, set on a virtual recreation of the Greek island.
Taking photographs of military installations and government buildings is strictly prohibited in Greece. It is too early to say what (if any) charges will be pressed against them. Photographing restricted areas and facilities (i.e. illegally gathering information) is normally a misdemeanour, punishable by up to 5 years of imprisonment or fine. However, espionage charges are much more serious, with a comparatively higher maximum possible sentence: 20 years in prison.
This situation is eerily similar to a 2001 case, in which fourteen plane-spotters (twelve Britons and two Dutchmen) were arrested in during an air show at the Kalamata Air Base and charged with espionage. Although seemingly simple, the Greek court accepted the prosecutor’s arguments and passed a guilty verdict, sentencing eight of the hobbyists to 3 years in prison for illegal information gathering and the remaining six to 1 year in prison suspended for 3 years, for aiding and abetting the former. The case was ultimately settled in November 2002, when the appeals court overturned the sentence and acquitted the plane-spotters.
However, this situation may be harder, as Bohemia Interactive is a well known developer of military simulation software (most notably Virtual Battlespace 2, used by NATO countries for training purposes), while Lemnos is an island located near Turkey, with whom Greece has historically rather strained relations. All depends on the Greek authorities. Hopefully, they will not repeat the same blunders, like with the aforementioned plane-spotters or the 2012 case of an elderly German radio-amateur charged with operating an illegal… telegraph, based on legislation from 1927.
Update 14:00 PDT: RipTen just received this directly from Bohemia Interactive CEO Marek Spanel
We can confirm that two Bohemia Interactive employees, our colleagues and friends, were arrested during their holiday trip to Lemnos. They visited the island 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.
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.