- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2005

USHIKU, Japan (AP) — Chess legend Bobby Fischer was freed today from a Japanese detention center and immediately headed for a flight to Iceland, bringing to a halt efforts to deport him to the United States.

Mr. Fischer, sporting a long, gray beard, jeans and a baseball cap pulled down low to cover his face, left the immigration detention center in this city on Tokyo’s outskirts early this morning for an afternoon flight to Europe.

The eccentric chess icon was taken into custody by Japanese immigration officials in July when he tried to leave the country using an invalid U.S. passport. Iceland has granted him citizenship.

Mr. Fischer was characteristically defiant as he arrived at the airport in a black limousine provided by the Icelandic Embassy in Tokyo, blaming his legal woes on a conspiracy of President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

“I won’t be free until I get out of Japan. This was not an arrest. It was a kidnapping cooked up by Bush and Koizumi,” he said.

He was accompanied by his fiancee, Miyoko Watai, the head of Japan’s chess association.

“I am truly happy. It is like a dream. I hope he will be able to go to Iceland without any more problems,” Miss Watai told reporters earlier when entering the lockup.

Mr. Fischer, who has been held in detention since his arrest, asserted that his U.S. passport was revoked illegally, and he sued to block a deportation order to the United States. He is wanted for violating U.S. sanctions imposed on the former Yugoslavia by playing an exhibition match against Russian Boris Spassky in 1992.

The former chess champion, who used the matches to emerge from years of silence, called the September 11, 2001, attacks “wonderful news” in a radio broadcast that day and has used his Web page to express anti-Semitic views and rail against the United States.

The parliament of Iceland, where Mr. Fischer won the world chess championship over Mr. Spassky in a 1972 Cold War showdown, awarded citizenship to Mr. Fischer last week.

Mr. Fischer, 62, still could face extradition to the United States — Iceland, like Japan, has an extradition treaty with Washington.

Thordur Oskarsson, Iceland’s ambassador to Japan, said before Mr. Fischer’s release that Washington sent a “message of disappointment” to the Icelandic government over its granting Mr. Fischer citizenship.

“Despite the message, the decision was put through parliament on humanitarian grounds,” Mr. Oskarsson said.

In Washington yesterday, the State Department said it officially had asked Japan to hand over Mr. Fischer because of the charges against him.

“That’s what we’ve asked for,” said Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman for the State Department. “Mr. Fischer is a fugitive from justice. There is a federal warrant for his arrest.”

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