- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The U.S. government yesterday rebuked Iceland for granting citizenship to fugitive chess champion Bobby Fischer, now in detention in Japan, saying he should be returned home to face a variety of legal charges.

“It’s an arrangement we are disappointed by,” State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said yesterday, citing an outstanding federal warrant for Mr. Fischer’s arrest.

“He’s been detained in Japan awaiting deportation. That’s the step we’re looking forward to,” he added.

Mr. Fischer’s supporters said in Tokyo yesterday that he may leave Japan as soon as the end of this week after Iceland’s parliament voted in a special session Monday to approve Mr. Fischer’s citizenship bid.

The 62-year-old chess legend has been held by Japanese officials since July, charged with traveling on an expired and invalid U.S. passport. He faces U.S. legal action for playing a match against longtime Russian rival Boris Spassky in Yugoslavia in 1992 — a violation of U.S. sanctions targeting the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

A federal grand jury recently began a probe into whether Mr. Fischer is guilty of tax evasion as well.

The reclusive Mr. Fischer has not returned to the United States since that match, and has been bitterly critical of his home country. In radio interviews, he has condemned the influence of Jews on U.S. policy and praised the September 11 attackers.

Mr. Fischer and his supporters say he is being persecuted for his political views.

Mr. Fischer enjoys substantial popular support in Iceland, where he won his historic 1972 world championship match against Mr. Spassky, ending a long Soviet domination of chess. The contentious match focused international attention on the small island nation and inspired a generation of strong Icelandic chess players.

The American was stripped of his crown three years later when he balked at conditions set for a title defense match against another Soviet challenger, Anatoly Karpov.

Under Japanese immigration law, detainees without a valid passport can be returned to their country of national origin or to a country where they can claim citizenship.

Iceland originally issued Mr. Fischer a temporary passport, but that was deemed insufficient by Japanese immigration officials.

The Kyodo news service quoted Japanese Justice Minister Chieko Nono as saying, “If he has [Icelandic] citizenship, I understand it is legally possible for him to leave Japan.”

It was not clear yesterday if Mr. Fischer would travel to Iceland if he does win his freedom. Iceland has an extradition treaty with the United States, leaving Mr. Fischer liable to deportation if he goes there.

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