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ArmA Developer Arrested For Espionage [UPDATE]
- Categorized in: Video Game News
PC Gamer launched a story this morning that quickly escalated to a full-on seige of controversial information out of the Greek isle of Lemnos. The story as it was initially told concerned two employees from Czech studio Bohemia Interactive poking their noses into military bases on the island that were supposed to be confidential. Claims of espionage were made by the local government, and the two were taken into custody. The story was confirmed on several Greek news sites late last night, and Bohemia's CEO Marek Spanel confirmed the incident on the company's forum earlier today.
Since then, a number of updates have been made to the story. While the pair's identity is at the moment unconfirmed, Eurogamer pegs them at ages 28 and 33, and confirms that they were detained for photographing a military installation on Lemnos. ArmA's Executive Procducer Jan Kunt said that the pair has not "been charged yet, but the police is giving the court information about what happened."
If found guilty of the very serious crime of espionage, the pair is looking at a solid 20 years of inprisonment.
Naturally, Bohemia Interactive would like to avoid this outcome, and they've been very forthcoming with their side of the story in hopes of getting their guys off the hook.
Kunt said that Bohemia has had issues with the Mayor of Lemnos, Antonis Hatzidiamantis, prior to the incident. As part of an extensive research project for ArmA 3, which will take place on Lemnos, the team purchased "publicly available information" including extensive maps of the military bases in the area.
This upset Hatidiamantis because the area in question contained "NATO's second-largest army," and Turkey is "next door."
Kunt retaliated, saying "You can buy it yourselves. The Turkish army can buy it. It's not military-grade intel. It's really nothing more than Google Maps. 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. I don't know where they were caught or what they were doing when they were caught.
"I'm not sure the situation will ease out. The Greeks arrested twelve people taking pictures of planes. Seems like the Greeks have lots of problems and want to focus attention elsewhere."
Charged words coming from the developers, who are still stunned by the turn of events. For the record, the plane incident to which Kunt refers occured way back in 2001, when 12 people were detained by the Greek government for spying on their military planes. Of those 12, eight were found guilty of espionage and the other four guilty of aiding and abetting.
We'll keep you updated as the story progresses, but as of now things are not looking good for ArmA 3 and its developers.
[UPDATE:] It appears as if a fan of the ArmA games warned the developers about taking photographs in the area over a month ago.
Eurogamer reports that Greek gamer Cyplon protested Bohemia's involvement in the area on the company's official forums on the 1st of August 2012. "On the island of Limnos is a military air base," he wrote. "It is illegal to take photographs of this base, yet the ArmA development team are creating a 3D model of the base, most likely based on photos which they took ilegally (as well as the satellite photos which aren't illegal.)
"Had this been an American base, or any other country with a large population of whom may purchase Arma 3, it is likely that such an act would not have been performed due to the risk of the country banning the game from being sold there. Hence, I find it disrespectful to do so. At the very least, the ArmA team should modify the base so that it is not an accurate representation of the existing base.
"All this time the ArmA series has been based on fictional locations, but now have chosen to create a game on a real location. Of all locations in the World, Limnos - one of the only islands in the Aegean with a military air base, is being replicated, regardless of the tensions between Greece and Turkey which are ongoing (you don't hear it on the news unless you are from Greece or Turkey.) Great choice for a first location!
"This is equivalent to creating an ArmA game replicating the Gaza strip, which would very likely anger Israel. I'm sure some of you may argue that if it were this easy for the developers to obtain such details of the base then it would be of no difficulty for Turkey. True, I doubt that the base has anything top secret anyway. However, you aren't just providing a 3D model, but also a matured military simulator from which Turkey may practice infiltrations of the base. It is like the development team modelling the inside of your house. I'm sure you would feel threatened if this were to happen to you. Indeed, on the bright side the Greek military can practice defensive tactics, but that can be done in real life anyway."