Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Japan to let Bobby Fischer go to Iceland-lawyer

"By Linda Sieg

4:28 a.m. March 23, 2005

TOKYO – Japan will release former world chess champion Bobby Fischer, wanted in the United States, so he can go to Iceland where he has been granted citizenship, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

The United States – where Fischer is wanted for violating sanctions against the former Yugoslavia by playing a chess match there in 1992 – has said it was disappointed by Iceland's move and reiterated that Washington wanted Fischer handed over.

Fischer, 62, will be released from detention on Thursday and probably fly out a few hours later, his lawyer, Masako Suzuki told Reuters.

He has been held in Japan since July, when he was arrested for travelling on what U.S. officials said was an invalid passport.

Japanese justice ministry officials were not immediately available to comment.

Iceland's parliament had granted Fischer citizenship on Monday, opening the door for the fugitive American to settle in the tiny North Atlantic republic, where he won the world title in 1972 in a classic Cold War encounter with Soviet champion Boris Spassky, a victory that made him something of a hero in Iceland.

'The formal procedure is finished,' Iceland's ambassador to Japan, Thordur Oskarsson, told Reuters on Wednesday.

'Mr Fischer is a true Icelander now.'

Fischer has used a series of legal moves to fight deportation to the United States, including seeking refugee status, renouncing his U.S. citizenship and unveiling plans to marry his companion Miyoko Watai, a four-time Japan women's chess champion.


Japanese officials have said it was legally possible for Fischer to be deported to Iceland if he had citizenship there.

The United States said on Tuesday that it was disappointed at its ally Iceland's decision to grant Fischer citizenship.
"We would like Mr. Fischer to return to the United States so that the charges that have been filed against him can be properly addressed through our legal system," Linda Hartley, spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Iceland's capital of Reykjavik, told Icelandic television channel RUV.

Iceland has long been a close ally of the United States, and, as the only non-armed member of NATO, depends on Washington for its military defence.

An aide to Icelandic Foreign Minister David Oddsson said the country was helping Fischer because of his "historical connection with Iceland."

Fischer disappeared after the 1992 match, in which he beat Spassky and pocketed $3 million, and did not resurface until after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

In an interview with a Philippine radio station, Fischer praised the strikes and said he wanted to see America "wiped out." Although born to a Jewish mother, Fischer has also stirred controversy with anti-Semitic remarks."

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