Hekmati was forced to "confess" for a state television broadcast from a written statement, "(Kuma Reality Games) was receiving money from the CIA to (produce) and design and distribute for free special movies and games with the aim of manipulating public opinion in the Middle East. The goal of the company in question was to convince the people of Iran and the people of the entire world that whatever the U.S. does in other countries is a good measure."
Hekmati's family was warned by Iranian officials not to publicise the arrest as it would "worsen the situation."
Kuma had released games this past year that depicted real events in the Middle East, including the killing of Al Quaeda founder Osama bin Laden and the capture and execution of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Another game that probably offended the court was Assault on Iran, in which players had to infiltrate an Iranian nuclear facility in order to obtain evidence of illegal uranium enrichment.
Most damning, if Kuma Reality Games CEO Ketih Halper is correct, is that their games are fairly popular in Iran. According to Halper in a 2007 interview with Gamasutra, Kuma's games enjoy "hundreds of thousands of downloads in Iran."
"We were denounced by name in the newspaper controlled by the supreme Ayatollah as a possible precursor to real US policy, which is absurd on the face of it, but speaks to the great power of realtime videogames as a storytelling medium," Halper added in the same interview.
Naturally, Hekmati had little to do with the content, theme or story of any of the games. His work focused on a "language retention toolset" for trainers and deployed soldiers that helped them learn languages and customary gestures with virtual avatars in various scenarios. In essence, Hekmati is a scapegoat for the Iranian government for the controversial games.
The US government is understandably outraged, as the White House has demanded Hekmati be released "without delay" and be given access to legal counsel.
"Allegations that Mr. Hekmati either worked for, or was sent to Iran by the CIA are false. The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons." White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in an official statement.
A similar incident occurred when Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, two hikers, were imprisoned for two years on similar charges of spying for the CIA. They were finally freed last September.
Videogame developer sentenced to death in Iran
10 January 2012 | By JonahFalcon
- Next Gen BIZ