Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Iceland May Grant Citizenship to Fischer


(AP) Mizuho Fukushima, leader of Japan's Social Democratic Party, speaks to a reporter outside Justice...
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REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) - Lawmakers in Iceland are likely to grant citizenship to mercurial chess genius Bobby Fischer, who currently sits in a Japanese cell, a member of a parliamentary committee studying the issue said Wednesday.

Gudrun Ogmundsdottir told The Associated Press that a citizenship motion probably would be approved by the nine-member committee Thursday. If it passes, it will go before Iceland's 63-member parliament, the Althingi.

'I think that parliament may approve of the citizenship as early as tomorrow,' said Ogmundsdottir, a member of the opposition Alliance Party.

'Somebody would then go over to Japan with the passport, which would enable him to travel here or anywhere in the world.'

Fischer, 62, is in a Japanese detention cell awaiting deportation to the United States, where he is wanted for violating economic sanctions against the former Yugoslavia by playing a highly publicized chess match there in 1992.

Mizuho Fukushima, leader of Japan's opposition Social Democratic Party, said senior immigration officials told her that Fischer would be allowed to go to Iceland if he is given citizenship there.

There is widespread support for Fischer in Iceland, where he played the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky in a celebrated world championship match in 1972 that put the small country on the map.

Last month, Iceland's parliament voted against granting Fischer citizenship, instead offering him a special foreigners' passport and residence permit. But Japanese officials so far have declined to release Fischer.

Several Icelandic politicians indicated Wednesday that parliament was now likely to grant Fischer citizenship.

"I can't speak for the whole party, but think few if any members of Parliament are opposed to granting Fischer citizenship," said Drifa Hjartardottir, a lawmaker with the Independence Party, which governs as part of Iceland's coalition government.

"We will not stand in the way of Fischer getting citizenship and want this issue to be resolved as quickly as possible," said Ogmundur Jonasson, a lawmaker with the Left-Green opposition party. "The worst thing we can do, both for Iceland and for Fischer, is to wait any longer."

Since being taken into custody in July for allegedly trying to leave Japan on a revoked U.S. passport, Fischer has lived up to his reputation for unpredictability.

He has repeatedly denounced the U.S. deportation order as politically motivated, demanded refugee status, unilaterally renounced his U.S. citizenship and said he wants to become a German national instead. He has also applied to marry a Japanese woman who heads this country's chess association and is his longtime companion.

Einar S. Einarsson, the former CEO of Visa Iceland who is one of Fischer's most fervent supporters, said he was optimistic.

"It's been like a chess game and there's only one move left before checkmate," he said.

Fischer, who has not visited Iceland since his 1972 match, virtually disappeared from the limelight for years before the 1992 rematch. In recent years, he has emerged from silence in radio broadcasts and on his Web page to express anti-Semitic views and rail against the United States."

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