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Bohemia arrests: Czech Republic president makes plea to Greece

ArmA duo's imprisonment becomes diplomatic issue as appeal on espionage charge is denied

Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic, has asked state officials in Greece to place "special attention" on the arrest and trial of two developers employed by Prague-based ArmA studio Bohemia Interactive.

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Ivan Buchta (left) And Martin Pezlar

In a letter to Greek president Karolos Papoulias, Klaus said "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," he added.

It emerged in September that Ivan Buchta and Martin Pezlar - two Czech developers working on the military FPS game ArmA 3 - were arrested near their hotel while touring Greece.

State officials accused the pair of espionage, initially alleging that they had taken detailed photos of a military installation.

Buchta and Pezlar now face up to 20 years in prison for charges of spying, which they deny. They have been held in a prison on a Greek island for more than 70 days and were recently denied an appeal against their charges.

The matter appears to be cultivating diplomatic tensions between Greece and the Czech Republic.

Klaus told Papoulias: "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."

It is believed that ArmA 3 is set on Lemnos, the same island where Buchta and Pezlar were arrested. While authorities charged the pair for allegedly taking sensitive pictures of a military instillation, their lawyer claims the duo were on holiday.

Despite the pair's appeal being refused, Bohemia Interactive said it will continue to fight the case. A representative for the studio told CVG: "We will of course continue in our effort to bring our friends back home. Any help or support is really appreciated."

A website dedicated to the detained pair has been set up. helpivanmartin.org features a section where users can write messages of support through postcards.

'Previous run-ins'

A developer at Bohemia Interactive recently told CVG that the Czech studio has previously had run-ins with the mayor of Lemnos, Antonis Hatzidiamantis.

"In the past the mayor was vocal about us using maps and how it is strategically problematic because Greece has NATO's second-largest army [Turkey's] next door to them," said Jan Kunt.

He claimed that the maps which Bohemia had obtained were publicly available information.

"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."

Greek authorities have a reputation for being sensitive to matters related to the country's military operations.

In 2001, a group of 12 Britons and two Dutch plane-spotters were found guilty of "spy charges" at a Greek court.

One year later, eight were found guilty of espionage and sentenced to three years in jail. The other six were convicted of aiding and abetting and received a one-year suspended sentence.

The following year, thirteen of the 14 plane-spotters had their convictions overturned. The Home Office, at the time, had apologised for not intervening.

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