Chess legend avoids 10 year prison term

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Chess legend Fischer leaves detention in Japan

Former world chess champion Bobby Fischer will move from Japan to his new home of Iceland despite requests from the USA for his deportation to the US. Mr Fischer had been held in Japan since last July when he was arrested on what US officials claimed was an invalid US passport. He was freed from detention on March 23 after 9 months in confinement.

Mr Fischer is wanted in the USA for violating Executive Order 12810, signed by then-President George H. W. Bush in 1992. EO 12810 placed sanctions on the former Yugoslavia, where Mr Fischer played a chess match in 1992 against Boris Spassky. If Mr Fischer had been sent to the US, he would have faced a ten year prison term. The U.S. revoked his passport in 2003 and Mr Fischer was later arrested at Narita Airport while trying to leave Japan en route to the Philippines.

Following an appeal by Mr Fischer's supporters, the parliament of Iceland granted Mr Fischer an Icelandic passport on Monday. Mr Fischer won the world championship in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1972, against Mr Spassky, then of the Soviet Union, and Mr Fischer remains popular among Icelanders. (Mr Spassky became a French citizen in 1978). The 1992 rematch was billed as as being for the "World Championship", although by then most chess fans recognized Garry Kasparov as the world's #1 player.

Iceland's ambassador to Japan, Thordur Oskarsson, said that the US government had sent a message of displeasure to the Icelandic government before its parliament passed the bill allowing for Mr Fischer's citizenship. Mr Oskarsson went on to say that, "Despite the message, the decision was put through Parliament on humanitarian grounds".

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