Splendid News: Imprisoned ARMA 3 Devs Released On Bail

By John Walker on January 15th, 2013 at 1:34 pm.

The two Bohemia Interactive developers arrested on accusations of spying in Greece have, it’s been announced today, been released on bail. And even better, are free to return to the Czech Republic. This has come about, remarkably, after the involvement of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, directly in communication with the Czech PM, Petr Nečas.

After four months in prison, without charge, and with the threat of 20 years in prison if convicted, Ivan Buchta and Martin Pezlar have been released on €5,000 bail each, and are now able to come home. Accused of taking photographs of military installations, the two have always maintained they were simply on holiday, visiting locations that they had previously added to the forthcoming ARMA 3. A huge home effort from family members and employers Bohemia Interactive gathered a great deal of press, and ultimately the attention of both nations’ top dogs.

The conditions of the bail are not yet known, but there are apparently no restrictions on their having to remain in Greece. And you have to assume it would be pretty tricky for Greece to pursue the pair once they’re back in the Czech Republic.

So many congratulations to everyone involved in the campaign to secure their freedom, and our condolences to Martin and Ivan for the awful four months they’ve endured.

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122 Comments »

  1. simoroth says:

    Fantastic news, they’ve been through quite the ordeal.

    • AgentBJ09 says:

      No joke. They should’ve been released without bail months ago, but still. It’s over, and the only fool left in the room is Greece.

  2. Mr. Mister says:

    Tararará, ta, ra, tá, tará

  3. felisc says:

    Great news !

  4. cyrenic says:

    So relieved to hear this. Best wishes to them and their families.

  5. Draakon says:

    I have yet to see any evidence of these mysterious military assets.

  6. AlwaysRight says:

    Great news, all the best to them and their families. Must be such a relief.

    • wild_quinine says:

      It’s a relief just *hearing* about it. I can’t imagine how it must have been for them.

      • AlwaysRight says:

        I know. I think it hits harder because in all likelihood they are similar people to alot of RPS readers (intelligent, slightly introverted, sensitive).
        I doubt many of us have been through anything as horrific as they have.

        I for one would NOT flourish in a prison environment.

  7. Hoaxfish says:

    Upon their release they proclaimed that the Greek Government was economically stable, and are really cool guys.

    Human Rights groups have begun investigating rumours of brainwashing.

  8. mkraven says:

    Finally this joke seems to be, if not ending, at least calming down.

  9. luukdeman111 says:

    thank god!!!

    The fact that someone still made €10,000,- with this terrible act is still infuriating but it’s fantastic news non the less!

  10. Drake Sigar says:

    Oh thank christ. Get the hell out of there.

  11. elilupe says:

    Yay! Finally, I was beginning to think they would actually be convicted in there. Nice to see they can finally get back to their friends and family.
    Now wouldn’t it be funny if it turned out they actually were spies…

  12. jellydonut says:

    Thank the gods.

    Someone needs to teach Greece how to be a developed 1st-world nation. Shit like this can’t stand.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      As opposed to all the other first-world countries that wouldn’t dream of doing something like this.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Yeah, plenty of big, rich nations are hugely paranoid about security. The UK crushed a whole bunch of civil liberties in the wake of 9/11, the US’s Guantanamo Bay prison is still open, and both countries arrest/deport people for jokes made on Twitter. Granted, Greece’s state is rather wobbly at the moment, and it’s going through a 1930s Germany moment in terms of extremist politics, but it’s not like the UK government is inviting tourists to take pictures of their family in front of their nuclear weapons facilities.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Most countries don’t arrest tourists taking pictures of military planes at a public airshow though.

          • Gap Gen says:

            True. Context is important, and in that case these people were invited. I imagine that in such situations it might be good for someone to tell people in no uncertain terms not to take pictures, so perhaps either they didn’t or the plane spotters assumed that it would be OK to sneak a couple of photos (I didn’t follow the story so I’m unsure what exactly happened).

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Photography was permitted at the airshow. There were hundreds of other people openly taking photographs there, plenty of foreigners too.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Huh. Well, then, that’s not on. There was also a story recently about foreigners (tourists, academics) being beaten by police in Greece, too, although this is possibly related to the rise of fascism as a political force in Greece.

          • mouton says:

            Greek authorities also like to hold non-white-looking tourists as illegal immigrants, beat them up etc.
            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20958353

            Bad stuff occasionally happens in all countries, but Greece is having a bad series recently, does it not.

        • Armitage says:

          @Gap Gen : “both countries arrest/deport people for jokes made on Twitter” … “it’s not like the UK government is inviting tourists to take pictures of their family in front of their nuclear weapons facilities.”

          Deporting a tourist for commenting on an intent to “destroy America” is hardly a violation of civil liberties and allowing photos of sensitive military sites is hardly a measure of a free and open society. So, whats your point? Greece could have confiscated the photos and released them. I don’t any relevance to your comments.

          • Gap Gen says:

            A fair point, although some stories I’ve heard about people who were charged (in the UK, too) for Twitter posts have seemed a little draconian. Again, these were mostly anecdotal (people saying “did you hear about…”), so it’s possible they were misrepresented. I think the “destroy America” example was one someone mentioned to me (apparently “destroy” means “have a thoroughly good time in” to people who don’t think things through carefully). But I’m not sure what the other side of, say, this kind of story is: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9671394/Burning-poppy-photo-Man-arrested-for-posting-image-on-Twitter.html

            As for the photographing sensitive sites – again, fair enough, no state would allow that. And it’s also worth noting that the attempt to raise the detention-without-charge limit in the UK was dropped (though I gather 28 days, the current limit) is still quite a long time compared to other similar countries. There are people who view Bradley Manning’s detention as being unnecessary punitive (for example, the length of time spent in solitary confinement). The Metropolitan Police in London have also been draconian in their anti-protest measures (for example, kettling a regular cycling group: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-19023104 – note that the cycling group and the Met have different accounts, and I’m not sure which is the accurate one).

            In any case, this isn’t an attempt to justify Greece’s actions, and apologies if it seems that way. I in no way condone the extended detention of people who were unlikely to be terrorists, even if they were aware of the risk involved in their actions. But we shouldn’t be complacent of civil liberties violations in the West, either, or pretend that they don’t exist. The Western state isn’t a kindly grandmother, but an institution geared towards maintaining its own interests and civil order, and will bend civil liberties if necessary.

        • Lev Astov says:

          Most 1st world nations either put their secure facilities where they can’t easily be photographed or at least post placards saying, “No Photography.” Hell, we have no photography placards on bridges all across the US.

          I suspect the political issues Greece is going through were the main cause for the lethargic justice, though.

  13. Lobotomist says:

    Sanity wins for once !

    Welcome back to your families guys :)

    ps
    As father myself, it breaks my heart to see that one of the devs was remove from his child in this way. Its just horrible.

  14. HexagonalBolts says:

    Run, run as fast as you can! Good job fellas

  15. Sheng-ji says:

    Such a shame that they had to endure such an unpleasant ordeal – I hope the people of whichever nationality who made this possible are recognised for standing up to injustice.

    Great news for them though and I wish them every happiness and luck with the trials.

  16. siggboy says:

    @luukdeman: One would assume that additional favours have been exchanged between the two PMs, not just the EUR 10k in bail money. That’s how the cookie crumbles in diplomatic blackmail cases such as this one (think back about the Bulgarian nurses held in Libya a few years back, on charges about infecting young children with HIV on purpose — which was, of course, nonsense).

  17. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    I don’t mean to put a damper on things, but has either side even made their case yet? Surely it’s a bit premature to be so absolutely certain of their innocence (or guilt, natch), based on what, exactly? That they work for a games company people like?

    EDIT: To be clear, the point I’m trying to make is that these are two people that are relatively high profile. What of the countless other “nobodies” being subjected to this sort of thing across the planet?

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Do you think if Greece had any evidence or the photographs they took were even remotely incriminating, they would have allowed bail, let alone bail which allows them to return home?

      • Ninja Foodstuff says:

        So being granted bail is proof of innocence? I’m not trying to troll here, and I’m absolutely against the disrespect of human rights that’s been shown here, but every elected government (and by extension, their citizens) everywhere has done this sort of thing and defended it.
        Everyone in the US threw a big party when UBL was shot in the face, and no one gave a damn about the rights of certain individuals that were violated in order to get there. Why is this any different?

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Being granted bail is not proof of innocence, but if you could point me to a single case where a spy who went on to be convicted was granted bail I would be most interested. It doesn’t ever happen because flight back to your home country is a guarantee if you really are a spy, and presumably, your home country would protect you.

          • Ninja Foodstuff says:

            Ha! I know better than to try and call your bluff when it comes to legal matters.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I’m not my husband, who liked to post without bothering to log me out!

            And by the way, I’m really not bluffing – I genuinely don’t see how any country with compelling evidence someone is a spy would allow them back to their home country on bail – it wouldn’t make sense!

        • Gap Gen says:

          The rights of non-citizens in the laws of a liberal state are sort of interesting. Obviously they have to have some rights otherwise tourism would be ridiculously risky, but a state doesn’t typically grant the same rights to foreigners in the case of, say, Bin Laden, compared to its own citizens. But you’re right that certainly security concerns often trump civil liberties concerns. And the killing of Osama Bin Laden was, I imagine, as legitimate as it could have been given the circumstances.

        • Armitage says:

          Sounds pretty trollish to me. You imply that the Killing of UBL was a bad thing and then say : “Why is this any different? ” C’mon… really?

          • mouton says:

            Most of the internet thinks USA is the most vile country in the world so yeah, I would think perspective is not very common out there.

          • Gap Gen says:

            There are a number of possible complaints:
            - The US entered Pakistani territory without overt permission (due to the reasonable concern that large parts of the Pakistani intelligence services are complicit with Islamist groups). I think I remember reading that the Pakistani leadership has given tacit agreement for the US to pursue its enemies over the Afghan border, but that’s been a point of contention in the past.
            - There’s the possibility that he was assassinated, rather than killed because he pulled a weapon on the SEAL squad. Some more idealist thinkers would have a problem with this.
            - The US, for a time, condoned torture to obtain information (even if they debated the use of that word). From what I’ve read, the use of torture was counterproductive and more to do with the arrogance and hubris of the Bush administration than anything. Various people claim that, for example, Zero Dark Thirty implies that torture led to Osama Bin Laden’s discovery, though I’ve heard other people claim otherwise.
            - Killing people is still icky and celebrating it can be a sign of the more unpleasant aspects of nationalism and xenophobia.

            Again, I think despite these points the killing of Osama Bin Laden was still a reasonable action, and one that the President should have taken, but obviously different people have different takes on world events.

          • Ninja Foodstuff says:

            I wasn’t implying that. I was referring to the treatment of so-called “detainees” in order to get there.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I suspect that both heads of state decided that neither was a real security threat and while their innocence or guilt was in question, it was easier for Greece and the Czech Republic in PR terms to essentially say “get out and don’t come back” than to try them and if necessary imprison them.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      In four months, they didn’t even bring charges. I presume they were just holding them indefinitely.

    • KlaxXxon says:

      I think this is a perfect place to apply Occam’s razor. Which is more likely:

      1) Two video game developers travelled to warm Mediterranean island where their game takes place. Note that at least one of the two guys was actually doing working on the map for the game. Then they were arrested by a government known to baselessly imprison innocent foreigners. Of course, said government repeatedly expressed dislike for the company employing the two developers and for the project they were working on long before the incriminating vacation.

      2) They were actually spies gathering information for Turkey. To do that, they posed for years as developers of a game taking place in the location they were supposed to spy on, accidentally gaining international attention in the process.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        er…. 2 please….. Damn!

      • Kaira- says:

        I’ll take “what is false dichtomy” for 100$, Alex.

        • Skabooga says:

          I don’t know, it seems fair to me. There is only a two-state identity: either they are spies, or they are not spies. Not really much of a spectrum on which they could fall (although, if one wanted to really get all up in this discussion, one could say that the information they innocently gathered could have been stolen by a third party and used for more malicious purposes, and other such scenarios).

          I think it is true enough to boil the situation down to: do the facts we know about the situation indicate these two men were innocent tourists or malicious intelligence agents?

        • zbeeblebrox says:

          I’ll take “what is a gross misuse of the phrase ‘false dichotomy’ for $1000, Alex”

      • LintMan says:

        To refine #1 a bit:
        1b) Greek govevernment expresses strong issues with game developer producing a game with detailed information of its bases and armaments – information it does not wish to be as freely available and conveniently simulated for potential enemies to use as the game makes it. Two developers of the game take a “vacation” to this country and spend it not on a beach or viewing ancient ruins, but photographing assorted military stuff. Then the government somehow figures out who these guys are, sees them taking military photos, assumes its more research for their game, and decides to “send a message”. So it calls the devs spies (“they’re releasing what we consider secret information!”), lets them sit in jail for 4 months and forces Turkey to kiss their butt to get them released. Their future trial can then use “evidence” from Arma 3 against them if the government cares to push it that far. The message sent: Don’t fuck with us, puny game developer.

    • zbeeblebrox says:

      Any country that would use the heads of a WAR GAMES company as spies is run by a bunch of idiots. And even stupid countries have their limits. That’s evidence enough for anyone, honestly.

  18. lordcooper says:

    Great news, it’s about damn time.

  19. db1331 says:

    Obviously, they’ve been turned by the Greek government and are now operating as a terrorist cell.

    /Been watching too much Homeland

    • BlackAlpha says:

      Next up, recently released Bohemia devs make a statement they are happy to be home and are now planning for their next vacation to visit Turkey!

      But in all seriousness, it’s good to hear they got bailed, at least now they can go back home.

  20. salejemaster says:

    Im guessing they aren´t going to be vacationing in greece again any time soon :)

  21. MuscleHorse says:

    First thing I would do is go and take some photographs of those sweet airports.

  22. Ironclad says:

    Well. I know one office where a party is being planned right now.

  23. kataras says:

    Good they didn’t get caught up in the current paranoid ‘law and order’ campaign…

  24. Didden says:

    So, the moral of the story is, Greece doesn’t really want tourists in its hour of need. I tell you, talk about own goal.

  25. Simas says:

    Bad news for BI – no more excuses to delay ArmA 3.

  26. Michael Fogg says:

    It’s great that their out, but unfortunately they will still have to face charge on trial, and Greece could demand their extradition from anywhere within EU by issuing an European Arrest Warrant. It would not be ‘tricky’ at all as John Walker put it, the EU area has laws in place for that and cross-border prosecution is routine.

  27. caddyB says:

    I still wonder if the Greek government will accept the loans from Turkish banks for their agricultural industry.

    Also, it’s great that these guys finally were released and I hope they weren’t actually very very good spies, otherwise the joke is on us :P

    • Gap Gen says:

      Political tensions can exist despite economic links, and sometimes because of them – for example, in the case of France and Germany, the supply of French coal to German industry before WWI made Germany weaker, because France could harm German industry by cutting off access to coal. Hence economic links became a security issue.

  28. GeForceFX says:

    fucking 4 months. are they savages?

    • JonasKyratzes says:

      Ask the people who spent years in Guantanamo being tortured because someone misread their names. This kind of thing is the new normal – this is how “the West” operates these days.

      • mouton says:

        The difference is, quite a lot of Americans protested against Guantamo and elected a president who promised to close it down. He failed to complete it, so far, but it simply isn’t as black and white as many people seem to think it is.

        • Lev Astov says:

          Yeah, we tried, we really did. But unfortunately now he’s signed into law his ability to send people there forever without any hope of a trial.

        • Gap Gen says:

          I’m sure in Greece the situation is rather complex, too, especially with the political and social instability. Plus, as someone pointed out, the Greek legal system could just be very inefficient and take 4 months to make something happen.

          • mouton says:

            4 months without being charged does not cut it, though. You can’t just hold people in the basement indefinitely simply because no one has the time.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Oh, I agree. Gitmo, by the same token, should also close. But often political reality stops the right thing happening. And even with the best will of the Greek PM, the desperate economic and political situation in Greece could slow justice to unacceptable levels.

          • mouton says:

            Gitmo is a bit different, because they cannot just dump many of those folks in the desert and their home countries often like to do things which make waterboarding a picnic. Oh, and many of them are actual terrorists too. Of course, they should have a fair trial and a set sentence nonetheless. Hopefully, they will sort it out decently.

        • JonasKyratzes says:

          How is this a difference? People in Greece are protesting all the time, have been for years now, and the government reacts with (EU-sanctioned) extreme violence. It’s not like Greek people are happy that the ARMA devs were imprisoned or that the police has turned into a gang of drug dealers and neonazis. But when people speak out against police violence or prison conditions they are labelled “radical leftists” and accused of supporting terrorism (sound familiar?).

  29. Javier says:

    Great to hear. I was also quite relieved. I can’t imagine how them or their families must be feeling.

  30. Felixader says:

    The whole thing is certainly a PR-Stunt that was totally helpful for Greece’s Tourist industry.

    http://bankrupt.hu/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Borat-Thumbs-Up.jpg

  31. Bluerps says:

    This is great news!

  32. Werd says:

    Greece is so hard up they held them hostage for bail money.

  33. Lev Astov says:

    So, is there any way we can donate to these guys and their families? I feel like they could all use a beer.

  34. Bullitt says:

    Thank Christ for that. This is indeed great news! No way I would go back there though, sod that. I think €10k is a fair price to pay to never go back there again. I am definitely taking a lesson from this and never going to Greece, ever.

  35. jackthename says:

    FINALLY! Good grief, with the level of relief I feel, it’s hard to imagine what they and their families must be feeling.

  36. jimangi says:

    Tomorrow the whole of Greece’s nuclear stockpile will be mysteriously detonated, I’m calling it!

  37. TomA says:

    Brilliant news, hope they can get back to their families sharpish and put this ridiculous ordeal behind them.

  38. betadays.co.uk says:

    That’s great news! Unbelievable this dragged on for so long.

  39. harvb says:

    This is just cracking news, awesome.

  40. rebb says:

    Quite possibly the best news of the day.

  41. MajorManiac says:

    Thank goodness if went this way, and not ‘the other’. Glad to hear they’re safe, or soon will be.

  42. mrmalodor says:

    Merry Christmas.

  43. Scandalon says:

    About farking time. Add me to the “don’t ever go to/spend money in Greece” list.

  44. Skabooga says:

    Glad to hear about this! Love to them and their loved ones.

  45. Joshua says:

    It is good to see that the Greek Prime Minister has assumed direct control over the proceedings.

  46. JackDandy says:

    Great to hear this.

    This whole fiasco was terrible.

  47. wsworin says:

    This is great to hear. :)

  48. GepardenK says:

    This might be the best piece of new ever written on RPS. My hearth lifted the moment I saw that title

    I was going to bed, but I think Im gonna play a quick mission of ARMA to celebrate

  49. Angelos79 says:

    Just to set the record straight here, what the two devs did, is punishable by 2 years in prison according to Art. 25 of the Greek Army Penal Code. It is a pretty standard clause for a EU country and in no way a violation of Human Rights, a fact that explains why no official protest was ever carried out against Greece by the Czech Rep or the EU. I understand the whole thing seems funny to people from countries with secure borders and friendly neighbors, but this is not the case here. Each summer there are dozens of arrests ,mainly of tourists of Turkish nationality, it is a whole flood.
    And before you go on calling the whole thing a fiasco, i challenge you to invade an airbase in the UK, the US, Turkey or Israel, and return home in 3 months to joke with your friends about it :)

    • GepardenK says:

      Sure taking those pictures is punishable. But the devil is in the details. The evidence put against them (according to their lawyer at least) was 17 stills from a homevideo (thats not even a second) were the main Limnos public airport was in the background (the airport also house fighter planes you see). Why then charge them with spying instead of taking their cameras and give them a fine. Also, they were charged for up to 20 years in prison, not 2

      This is not so unbelivable for greece. Remember those turists who were arrested for taking pictures of millitary planes at a public air show were taking pictures of said planes was in fact allowed! They also turned out to be innocent of course

      • bgf says:

        Still, you’d think Greece would be more reasonable.

        I recall being in Pakistan a few years back (a country with an awful reputation for police abuse) and was taking pictures of a dam and bridge out in a rural area when a soldier approached me and asked that I stop as it was against the law due to terrorism concerns.

        I wasn’t arrested or abused at all, he simply watched as I deleted the photo and put away my camera then let me leave the area in peace.

    • Deadfast says:

      One small detail, the Greek prosecution is going after them for espionage which carries the sentence of 5 to 20 years.
      Also, driving past an airport on a public road is hardly an invasion of a military base.

  50. MeestaNob says:

    ABOUT FACE!

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