The ARMA community has set up a website to track events related to the arrest of Ivan Buchta and Martin Pezlar, Czech developers of ARMA III arrested in Greece on suspicion of espionage/illegal information gathering. The site acts as a hub tracking interviews, announcements and other occurrences related to the incident. Most importantly, it provides a link to a recent interview with Panayiotis Eleftheriou, a Greek lawyer working for the developers.

What happened? Greek news outlets reported that they were taking photographs of military installations at Lemnos, leading the gaming community to assume that they were taking reference photos for the upcoming military simulator. However, this is not true. As Eleftheriou explains, the only “incriminating” piece of evidence is a video clip recorded with a handheld camera. This clip is a short recording that does, in fact, include footage of a Greek military airport… about 14 frame long, taken from a moving car, with the cameraman stopping the recording once he notices signs informing that photography is prohibited.

He mentions that the reaction of Greek police at Lemnos is likely a result of the island’s strategic location near the Greek-Turkish border, combined with the historically strained relations between the two states. ARMA III has been previously a subject of a minor controversy, when a Greek MP asked the Ministry of Defence, if the game could pose a threat to Greece’s national security (obviously, as ARMA doesn’t recreate Lemnos on a 1:1 scale, the answer was no).

The interview ends with a sobering estimate, that the case may take up to 18 months, which is why Mr Eleftheriou has asked for the developers to be released from custody. The decision is up to the prosecutor.

We recently received a formal statement from Bohemia Interactive’s CEO, Marek Španěl, regarding the detention of the two employees. It’s clear that the two have the full support of the company in addition to the community, and that everyone involved simply hopes for a speedy end to what seems to be a misunderstanding.

Prague, 20th September 2012

My colleagues and I were shocked when we found out about the detention of our co-workers and friends, Martin Pezlar and Ivan Buchta, on the Greek island of Lemnos. Everybody who knows them realizes that they’re not spies and certainly never intended to threaten Greek national security.
The guys visited the island as tourists. Their trip to Lemnos was personal, organized via travel agent, with the single goal of experiencing the place that had inspired the virtual environments of Arma 3, a computer game that they’ve been working on over the past two years.
Our company has never gathered or collected any restricted information, such as photos or blueprints of military installations of any nation, nor have we ever tasked anybody else to do it on our behalf. We always respect the law and we develop all of our products using publicly available materials only – Arma 3 is no exception.

According to media sources, the Greek ministry of National Defence actually examined our game, after local authorities raised this topic. They assured that the game is fine. Originally planned for release in autumn of this year, it is based upon a fictional future, set in 2035.
The whole incident is a terrible personal tragedy for Ivan, Martin and their families; I believe it to be no more than a deep misunderstanding, one which will be swiftly explained. I’m ready to support the guys and their families in these difficult times as much as I can.
Marek Španěl
Bohemia Interactive a.s.