Czech Pres Writes Greek Leader Over Jailed ArmA Devs

By Nathan Grayson on November 22nd, 2012 at 12:00 pm.

Things haven’t exactly been going well for jailed ArmA III developers Ivan Buchta and Martin Pezlar, but if nothing else, they’re not without support. Bohemia Interactive and the Czech Embassy have been in their corner for the more-than-70-day duration – though unfortunately, they haven’t been able to make any significant headway. Most recently, the pair was unable to post bail, and now a trial seems almost completely unavoidable. And so, with things seemingly stuck in a nosedive that never ends, the president of the Czech Republic has decided to step in.

Eurogamer got its hands on a translated version of Václav Klaus’ letter to Greek president Karolos Papoulias, and the words contained therein were civil, but obviously pointed.

“I would like to address a matter of two Czech citizens who were arrested in Greece and charged with espionage. This case is very sensitive to the Czech public and also to me as President of the Republic. The fate of our citizens anywhere in the world matters to us. I have no doubt that the democratic Greek authorities – police, prosecutors and the courts – will consider this unfortunate matter impartially and independently. Even I do not in any way want to interfere with their work.”

“I want to ask you, Mr. President, to follow this unfortunate affair with special attention considering the excellent relations between our nations so this does not throw unnecessary shade onto our relationship. Once again, I want to assure you that I have the utmost certainty that our accused citizens will be given all the rights in the search for justice by the Greek authorities.”

It is, meanwhile, a matter of public record that Buchta and Pezlar are being kept in “harsh” conditions – which, in this case, means sleeping on the floor of one cell with 25 other people. And then there’s also the matter of the British plane-spotter case from 2001, whose initial results it would be a stretch to call fair by most definitions.

Currently, a strike in the Greek legal system is holding up the process, so the next step is unclear. For now, though, nobody’s throwing in the towel just yet.

“We will of course continue in our effort to bring our friends back home,” Bohemia told RPS in light of recent events. “Any help or support is really appreciated.”

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59 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    Currently, a strike in the Greek legal system is holding up the process, so the next step is unclear. For now, though, nobody’s throwing in the towel just yet.

    This is the bit that sucks the most IMO.

    • Ansob says:

      It “sucks” in that it is unfortunate timing for the BIS guys. It does not in any way suck that members of the Greek legal system are currently striking for their right to survive.

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        Actually, I think it sucks that they have to

        • hazelprice6 says:

          Carter. you think Eric`s stori is impressive, on monday I bought themselves a Lexus LS400 after having made $9366 this – four weeks past and-a little over, ten grand this past-munth. this is certainly the most-comfortable work Ive ever had. I actually started 3 months ago and almost immediately started bringing in minimum $73 per/hr. I went to this site,.. http://youtube.qr.net/jNM0/watch?v=X22QHxrwp_E

  2. Didden says:

    This was always about politics.

  3. Fanbuoy says:

    Well, as Nathan points out, the Greek legal system isn’t known to be among the best and most fair in the world. They may have invented democracy, but legal issues were more of a Roman thing.

    • jhng says:

      That having been said, they haven’t made them drink hemlock yet — so there’s clearly been some progress over the last few years.

    • Lagwolf says:

      Ah it is so nice to read comments by those educated and knowledgeable. The Greek legal system is not exactly as sophisticated as it should be. They have no such thing as “common law” which the UK & the Anglosphere countries share for instance.

      • Fanbuoy says:

        Yes well, neither do I, so who am I to speak? Then again, I hear that there are more ways to evaluate the quality of legal systems. Not prosecuting rape victims for slander (and accusing them of insurance fraud), against strong circumstantial evidence, for example. Although, to their defence, it is allegedly a common practice for European women to go to Greece on vacation and lie about being raped there, so as to cash in their rape insurances. Yeah.

      • Herkimer says:

        Most of the world doesn’t use the common law. To use the parlance, that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Non-common law systems aren’t deficient, they’re just different. Greece may have a shady justice system, I really don’t know, but if they do, it isn’t from lacking the common law.

  4. Hoaxfish says:

    I guess it all depends on if the greek economy accept travellers czechs

    • Premium User Badge

      Fede says:

      They are well accepted; instead, the problem seems to be getting them back! It will probably cost them an ArmA and a leg!

      • Fazer says:

        We will need help of combined operations from Czech and Greece.

    • Scissors says:

      Greece the authorities with travellers czechs.

      • Fanbuoy says:

        Wow, that’s not a very flattering association for them. Good thing I’m a swede.

    • ynamite says:

      That made me laugh out loud. Well played sir.

    • Njordsk says:

      Has to log in just to say it was one of the best pun.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    It’s always amusing for me as a Britisher to see Americans describe how someone has penned someone else, as if the force and beauty of their words has brought forth a living being.

    • Premium User Badge

      ChrisN says:

      I’ve read this a few times and still don’t understand. What?

    • Premium User Badge

      Durkonkell says:

      To clarify, in British English the sentence “Czech Pres Writes Greek Leader Over Jailed ArmA Devs” might mean that the President of the Czech Republic has written the words “Greek Leader” over Jailed ArmA Devs.

      “Writes” is never substituted for “Writes To” here, whereas it seems to be standard in American English (“write your congressman” vs “write to the Daily Mail”). It is therefore somewhat amusing to see people talking about writing each other.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        Hah! I never noticed, but yeah, you get that a lot in politically-related things over here. I’m pretty sure I never use “write” that way myself (and sure as heck won’t now that I associate it with politics), but it’s common enough that I haven’t even thought about it before. And I do love a good play on words, so thanks for pointing it out!

    • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

      Just a colloquialism. Much in the same way that “Giving someone a ring” is neither actually handing them a round metal band nor boxing a sound and then presenting it for them.

  6. Spoon Of Doom says:

    My first thought at the title:
    Hello friend,
    my name is X and I am the leader of a European country and have a business proposal for you. […]

    But jokes aside, this whole story sucks. Imprisoned under god knows what conditions for taking a couple of pictures which happen to have parts of a military thingy on them, slow legal process and the fear of having to stay in that lovely prison for 20 years or something. My thoughts are with those guys, I can’t imagine how that must feel.

    • ScorpionWasp says:

      Not to mention sexual assault is a common occurrence in prisons, guilty prisoner or not. Not that anybody cares, rape is only a serious thing when it’s against the poor, oppressed women, of course.

      • Ich Will says:

        Not every country has a problem with sexual assault in jail – not saying it doesn’t happen in every country but in very many countries in the world it is no more common than sexual assault in a reputable nightclub.

      • Premium User Badge

        lurkalisk says:

        I… I can’t tell if I should block you, or if you’ve learned some new sort of hyper-sarcasm that has merely overwhelmed my therefore meager intellect…

  7. mike2R says:

    Probably about time for Greece to back down on this.

    Yes they broke Greek law. But the sort of sentences they are talking about are not suitable for tourists who took a few pictures where they shouldn’t. Assuming they don’t actually have evidence that they were being paid by Turkey or whatever, they aren’t going to be able to lock up two EU citizens from another member state and throw away the key without some serious repercussions.

    Voluntary magnanimity now, or forced compliance under concerted pressure later.

  8. Rossi says:

    Emailed the BBC about this, I haven’t seen them cover this story and I think they should

    [quote]
    Dear BBC News

    I would like to bring to your attention the plight of two Czech games developers who have been jailed in Greece on charges of espionage. It is the general belief that these two jailed men, Ivan Buchta and Martin Pezlar who work for a company called Bohemia Interactive have been wrongly imprisioned. Attempts to secure their release have failed and now the Czech president has written a letter the the Greek president urging him to pay closer attention to proceedings.

    I and I am sure both of the men would appreciate BBC News to cover this story and to highlight their issue. I am sure this will help apply some pressure to the Greek authorities in order to get the matter resolved quickly and fairly.

    I personally have no involvement in the case, but as a fan of their work I have a great deal of interest.

    This story is being covered by games website, Rock Paper Shotgun here

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/11/22/czech-pres-writes-greek-leader-over-jailed-arma-devs/#more-132747

    which includes links to previous stories.

    Many thanks
    Ross Miller

    • Ich Will says:

      It was covered on world service – it won’t make it into mainstream British BBC unless it directly involves a British person.

      • Unaco says:

        It might not make it into mainstream British BBC. But that won’t be to do with it not involving a British person directly. More to do with the size/impact of the story, rather than who it involves. But BBC can and will cover stories such as this, even if they do not directly involve British people… take a look at the Technology news page (were most gaming related stories pop up), and there are plenty of non British-centric stories.

        • Ich Will says:

          Oh, I agree, I was taking size of this case and how minor an update this is to the story into account when I made that post.

      • Unaco says:

        Actually, from a quick scan about, it has been covered by the BBC. Back in September, when the arrests took place…

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19585426

    • pantognost says:

      That’s a very nice letter there. Especially the point that declares that they are “wrongly imprisoned”. I suppose that you have all the documents, the facts and the legislation to make a judgement for this case.
      I understand that as “a fan of their work” you have “a great deal of interest” for that case.
      I would very much like you to reprint in this message board the letter that you sent to the BBC for the CIA renditions conducted across Europe. You know the illegal kidnappings without any probable cause and any notification to the country, that the U.S. intelligence service was conducting “to preempt terrorist attacks”.
      I suppose that picking up a person, for example, in Spain, drugging him, transporting him in a plane with a cloth in his head is a breach of human rights, yes?
      Since you are so sensitive with Greece’s delay of justice for two people who were blatantly disregarding the law, you would be sensitive to the U.S. conducting aggressive human rights transgressions across Europe.
      You did sent such a letter to BBC, now, didn’t you?

  9. Unaco says:

    “and now a trial seems almost completely unavoidable”

    Anyone with the slightest modicum of common sense, and no axe to grind, or message to send, or need to smash the faces of people they feel have slighted them, or Politics, or whatever, would see that no… A trial is completely avoidable. Locking them up in ‘harsh’ conditions for 70 days was completely avoidable as well… the whole f*cking thing was completely avoidable.

    • xfrog says:

      How about not trying to be smart and ask for permission?
      Then all these would have been avoided.

      Greek authorities have a reason, far-fetched or unfair I do not know. But they have a logical and consistent story. And by the law they have to trial them.

      Please tell me the story of the developers/Bohemia’s part?
      Did they gather data for their game?
      How is it called when you professionally gather illegal data? Were there for vacation?
      What the law states?
      Why the developers changed their answer on why they were there?
      Why Bohemia erased the forums where they openly stated they were going to gather data for their game with no permission?(ignoring their fan’s warnings?)
      If they were not there on work, how Bohemia knows what they did and what not according to their latest statement? What was that they actually did?
      Why things were fine at the beginning of their captivity and now it is inhuman?
      Why they chose Limnos? (I do not expect many people to know the significance of this island)
      Every man in Greece has served in the army and I am no exception. For a while I was in a camp by a town that tourists were taking photographs all the time. No one got arrested. I would never bother reporting that to anyone, but I was also in places that I had to report it because it was just suspicious/not common for people to be there.Also in times we had some information about spies that we had to be extra careful and report anything or times that we were under an alarm state. I have seen real (like not in a game) enemy fighter airplanes escorting our transport airplane till they went driven away in a dogfight and I have been in camps that have been breached for weapons.So, yes, there are valid reasons this has to go all the legal way to the end, even if they “just” did it for a game.

      Cells are not Hotels but still they should be treated with respect and in good conditions. According to their statement everyone was nice to them and they didn’t have a problem. Afterwards they said that the conditions they are kept are inhumane. Even if they didn’t explain why there was such an extreme change of attitude, that is unacceptable for the Greek authorities even if these are not normal days for making general assumptions, with strikes, riots and lot of arrests.They can hold them rightfully for that long, not that anyone likes that and not that is un-rightful for people to demand proper conditions.

      Anyway, by all means the two developers are they who have to apologize and not Greece.(or Czech Republic)

      • Unaco says:

        These people are not spies. They are Game Devs. This is a misunderstanding and an overreaction and should have been cleared up within 48 hours of it happening, with the Greeks going “Sorry, we just wanted to be careful”, and the Devs going “Sorry, we missed that first sign, we’re happy with you deleting the film/photos we took”, and then maybe having a little drink together, and a laugh over how silly it would be if it went further than that.

        • Samolety says:

          This is pretty much it. It’s perfectly fair that they got arrested, that would happen anywhere. It’s the fact that they didn’t get released a couple days later with a stern warning/fine and their pictures deleted that is ridiculous.

          • pantognost says:

            I don’t expect you to know this, but what they were photographing was one of the most sensitive airbases in the country. They were warned by their fans at the forums, they were forbidden by the Greek authorities when they asked for permission and they went there under false pretense, tourism, and took pictures anyway. Their charge is not trespassing, it is treason. Oh and after they saw that this was not gonna go away with a “we’re game developers and foreigners so fuck off” then the conditions, suddenly got inhuman. I have never visited any prison but I suppose it is not a pretty place.
            Which is kinda the point for being a deterrent against breaking the law.

      • mike2R says:

        10 or 20 years? That is what they are talking about. Sorry but that is a sentence for someone who is actually committing espionage for a foreign power, not a couple of naughty tourists. If the Greek government want to treat Greeks like that then fair enough, but if they do it to citizens of another country then that country is going to tell them where to stick it.

  10. Boarnoah says:

    Total Biscuit linked to this, while speaking of the matter. Don’t know how useful petitions would be but its at least worth a try.

    http://www.helpivanmartin.org/

  11. Mr. Mister says:

    Damn, non-english european names with Ks sound a bit more badass than your usuals.

  12. requisite0 says:

    This is what happens when game devs provide mod tools…

  13. Premium User Badge

    yhancik says:

    Of course I misread this as “Czech Pres Writes Geek Leader Over Jailed ArmA Devs”

    • Herkimer says:

      To be fair, Anonymous probably has more clout than Greece does, these days.

  14. Gorf says:

    If they where medalofduty:modernfacefighter6 devs then i probably wouldnt give a shit.
    But in all seriousness this is so fucked up and I really do hope they get released asap.

  15. Hypnotic Geese says:

    As if Turkey would send in two men from a foreign games studio, with which Greece has a political axe to grind, to partake in espionage. (lol)

    • pantognost says:

      Well, since Turkey did not send them, let them create an exact representation of the airbase for which the Turks are conducting infiltration exercises.
      Yup, that makes a lot of sense, of course.

  16. grable says:

    I know one thing at least… Thats another country on the list il never travel to.
    Sadly that list is growing rapidly :(

  17. MistyMike says:

    Bad headline. I thought it was a misspelling and the story is about what the Czech press writes about the case. A short for ‘president’ would rather be ‘prez’.

  18. Prokroustis says:

    A note, Greece being a parliamentary democracy rather than a presidential one, the prime minister is the “Greek Leader”.

  19. Premium User Badge

    MajorManiac says:

    I would have imagined the conditions to be unpleasant, but – “means sleeping on the floor of one cell with 25 other people”.

    It sounds like medieval times over there. Not that I’m familiar with English prisons, but I presume we get beds and just a couple of cell mates.

    I feel really sorry for these guys and seriously hope they haven’t had their humanity ‘taken’ away from them.

  20. pantognost says:

    you know I feel bad about this. Not about the story, about the readers’ response. RPS is very careful and covers the issue very professionally. Even the support that it provides to the accused is indirect and avoids any straight criticism to the Greek government which could be construed as bias.
    What really shocks me though, is the stereotyping that some of the readers here demonstrate.

    The consensus is that these developers are innocent, wait no, the developers should not have been kept in jail for photographing a sensitive military installation after specific instructions not to, they should have been dismissed from prison with a warning and that for not doing that, the Greek government is a corrupt military state that oppresses people systematically. The idea of the developers actually having ulterior motives is dismissed as absurd (cause, hey, they make the games we like, so they must be just a bunch of cool guys) , Greece’s right to self defense is dismissed with derogatory terms (“you poor schmucks, you should pay up your debts and not think about defending your military secrets”) and worst of all, the simple fact that these people broke one very serious law of the Greek state is dismissed as silly (“So what if they photographed a military airbase, no biggie”).
    Funny thing is that these people did not break some weird religious law that applies only to the Greek culture or nationality (like Sharia law in Saudi Arabia or something like that). They conducted what defines in the most direct way the term espionage. They deliberately and systematically gathered sensitive military information that should be kept secret, against a direct and specific prohibition by the target country with the intent to make that information public to everyone, including potential enemies of the country.
    I won’t write any more because there is really not much more to be written. Just consider one thing.
    If this was done in Israel, or the U.S. would anyone object. Hell with the turmoil in the middle-east and the active and guerrilla battlegrounds in Afghanistan and Iraq why did these developers did not choose to ignore U.S. or Israeli military security measures?
    That’s right.
    Because they knew that getting arrested, spending 70 days in a cell, not with 25 people and left easy, but with one, very interested interrogator and his waterboard, would be the optimal outcome of their escapades.
    Some perspective is in order here.