Fri, Mar 25, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Chess legend headed to Iceland

AP , NARITA

Chess legend Bobby Fischer walked free yesterday from a Japanese detention center and immediately departed on a plane for his new home, Iceland, following a nine-month standoff with Tokyo officials trying to deport him to the US.

Fischer, sporting a long, gray beard, jeans and a baseball cap pulled down low over his face, left the immigration detention center on Tokyo's outskirts early yesterday morning.

Japanese immigration officials released the eccentric chess icon after taking him into custody in July, when he tried to leave the country using an invalid US passport.

As he was taken yesterday to the airport in a black limousine provided by the Icelandic Embassy, his vehicle was mobbed by a few dozen immigration officials, photographers and reporters.

Fischer was accompanied by his fiancee, Miyoko Watai -- the head of Japan's chess association -- and Iceland's ambassador to Japan Thordur Oskarsson. Fischer and Watai caught an afternoon flight to Denmark en route to Iceland.

Fischer was characteristically defiant as he arrived at the airport and spoke briefly to reporters.

"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, referring to US President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

"They are war criminals and should be hung," he said.

As he walked toward the airport entrance, he turned, unzipped his pants and acted like he was going to urinate on the wall.

Fischer, detained since his arrest, claims his US passport was revoked illegally and sued to block a deportation order to the US, where he is wanted for violating sanctions imposed on the former Yugoslavia by playing an exhibition match against Russian Boris Spassky in 1992.

This week, Iceland's Parliament stepped in to break the standoff, giving Fischer citizenship. Iceland is where he won the world championship in 1972, defeating Spassky in a classic Cold War showdown that propelled him to international stardom.

Fischer, 62, could still face extradition to the US -- Iceland, like Japan, has an extradition treaty with Washington.

Ambassador Oskarsson had said before Fischer's release that Washington sent a "message of disappointment" to the Icelandic government over giving Fischer citizenship.

"Despite the message, the decision was put through Parliament on humanitarian grounds," Oskarsson said.

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