Fischer renounces US citizenship

by ChessBase
8/15/2004 – Bobby Fischer has been moved to a new detention facility in Tokyo, pending a decision on his deportation to the US, where he faces a 10-year jail sentence. A lot of new material has surfaced, including Fischer's handwritten renouncement of his US citizenship and a blow-by-blow description and picture of his arrest at Narita Airport. Harrowing stuff...

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When Narita immigration officers took custody of Bobby Fischer on July 13, the chess champion felt betrayed by the country that had granted him sanctuary. Now the former grandmaster and his supporters ready his last gambit. There is a long article in the Japanese English language magazine Metropolis, written by Steve Trautlein. Here are excerpts.

Fischer came to Japan for all the ordinary reasons – to visit, pursue business deals, and just enjoy getting away. But Bobby Fischer found his prized anonymity shattered on July 13 when attempting to board JAL flight 745 to Manila. His US passport was stamped VOID and he was put into the airport detention facilities as immigration case No. 20210.

But with the help of old friends and newfound allies, Fischer is fighting back. One of them is John Bosnitch, a 43-year-old communications specialist and former junior chess champion, who is trying to stave off deportation and a possible ten-year prison term in the US for Fischer.

Fischer's allies in Japan: Miyoko Watai, president of the Japan Chess Association, John Bosnitch, 43-year-old communications specialist and former junior chess champion, and Ichiji Ishii is a former vice minister of foreign affairs [Photos provided by Miyoko Watai and Tama Miyake Lung]

In the Metropolis article Bosnitch describes in vivid detail how Fischer arrived in Japan on April 15 of this year, entering the country on a valid US passport with a 90-day tourist visa. With the visa due to expire, he booked a flight to the Philippines, and while at Narita received an exit stamp to go along with his legal entry one. “Then, without warning, the man at the gate grabbed his passport and stamped ‘void’ on both of them,” Bosnitch says. Fischer was then surrounded by security officers and, after refusing to leave the area, was “jumped” by an unknown number of people, “bruising his face, bruising his body, cutting his arm. This guy was completely manhandled.”

Fischer was put in a cell in the Immigration Detention Office at Narita’s Terminal 2, and the next day, July 14, he received a mysterious visitor—someone named “Peter” who claimed to be a US Embassy official. When Fischer asked “Peter who?” the man replied, “That’s none of your concern.” The visitor then said he was authorized to replace Fischer’s confiscated passport with a document allowing a one-time, one-way trip to the US. Fischer refused the deal, feeling that there was no legal basis for either his detention or the seizing of his papers. He similarly refused to give his name, sign documents, or be photographed or fingerprinted. The next day Fischer was brought to a deportation hearing, and after again not cooperating, a verdict ordering his deportation was returned. He had three days to file an appeal.

According to Bosnitch, there were several irregularities in the proceedings. US civil codes, he says, state that passports can only be revoked after written notice is given, a process that, with appeals, can take up to 120 days. When Bosnitch inquired about this, US officials referred him to a document supposedly generated by the US embassy in Manila, which is dated December 11, 2003, and which indeed asks Fischer to surrender his passport. But the letter lacks an address, which indicates it was never sent, a fact that Bosnitch says renders it invalid.

Bosnitch is appalled by the conditions in which Fischer is being kept at Narita. Besides the drubbing he allegedly received on being taken into custody, which he told Bosnitch included being smothered in a plastic hood “a la Abu Ghraib,” Fischer received bruises to his face and a large cut on his right wrist. He’s been kept indoors since being apprehended, and the lights in his cell – befogged by secondhand cigarette smoke – are on 24 hours a day.

Miyako Watai, Masako Suzuki,
Fischer's lawyer, and John Bosnitch at a press conference in behalf of Fischer.

Another supporter of Fischer is Ichiji Ishii, a former vice minister of foreign affairs, who has founded his own chess club, which currently has about 2,000 members. Like Bosnitch, the former politician is willing to go to the mat for the former world champion. He has offered to serve as a guarantor if Fischer is granted provisional release while awaiting his next hearing. “He’s at very low risk to flee or disguise himself,” Ishii told reporters.

Miyoko Watai feels that Fischer’s troubles spring from his controversial political statements. “I told him not to write on his website [about] political things,” she says. “It’s very dangerous. But he said to me, ‘Do you want me to live silently? Is that a real life?’” And why did Fischer move to Japan? Watai speculates that, like many gaijin, Fischer appreciates the country’s low crime rate, in particular being able to sleep on trains without fear of harassment. Fischer is currently focussing on a new style of chess he developed, called "Fischerandom Chess" (in which the back row of each player’s pieces are scrambled before the game starts). “He doesn’t like to play chess anymore. He plays only Fischerandom, which he calls ‘new chess,’” Watai says.

Fischer on the cover of Time and Newsweek in 1972, and of Life magazine in 1971

Fischer faces a deportation process that could drag on for as long as two months. In the meantime, he has filed for refugee status in Japan on the basis of political persecution, and his supporters are prepared to apply for a German passport on his behalf (Fischer’s father is German by birth). But no matter what the outcome of the immigration case, one thing’s for sure: Fischer’s relationship with the land that offered him a hospitable welcome, where he made chess friendships and could avoid the limelight, is no longer a sanctuary. “He doesn’t want to stay in Japan anymore,” Watai says. “It’s a pity. He loved Japan so much.”

Statement of facts

A very long blow-by-blow description of Fischer's arrest at Narita Airport has appeared in the "Bobby Fischer web site". It is entitled "Kidnapped and railroaded to his imprisonment torture and death in the Jew-controlled U.S.A.", and although written in the third person it is based on Fischer's own description of what transpired.

On July 13th 2004 at about 5:25 p.m. Robert James Fischer (“Bobby” Fischer) entered the Japanese immigration dept. on his way to Japan Airlines flight JL 745 departing from Tokyo/Narita airport at 6:20 p.m. for Manila Philippines. Bobby gave the immigration lady his passport and she quickly stamped his exit visa. However he’d forgotten to fill out the immigration departure form. She told him to fill it out at a nearby writing stand. He took it over there and filled it out. But when Bobby returned a couple of minutes later an immigration man had replaced her. Bobby gave him back his passport and the filled out immigration form. However when the immigration man put his passport under a special light a beep went off or was set off and Bobby was detained. Bobby was asked to take a nearby seat while they found out what was the problem. Bobby took the seat and as he was waiting he heard someone on the phone fiercely barking instructions to an immigration official. The immigration official kept repeating in a loud militaristic manner “hai, hai!” After Bobby had waited there about 15 minutes or so he told the immigration official talking on the phone that his plane was leaving shortly and that he didn’t want to miss the flight. By now all pretense of civility was gone and the immigration official fairly shouted at Bobby “I know that sit down!” and went back to his bullshit phone call. After waiting there on his seat for about half an hour or so altogether Bobby was told to accompany various immigration security officials. Bobby went with them through the office to the left of the immigration exit counters and then down a ways to an elevator. Bobby and the security officials took the elevator down at least one floor. Then Bobby and the immigration security officials took a long walk down the dark and narrow corridor to Bobby was told not where. The atmosphere had turned threatening, foreboding, hostile and sinister. The place was completely apart and isolated from other passengers. There were only immigration types. Bobby asked “Where are we going?” He was told they were going to an office to talk. Bobby stopped walking and said “What’s the problem?” Bobby was told that he should just go to the office to talk. Bobby said “About what?” Bobby was told “We just talk.” At some stage a young extremely fat half Japanese and half Latino translator made his portly appearance. By now Bobby said “I’m not moving until I know what this is all about.” Bobby tried to start walking in the direction of where he’d come from. He was blocked by a smirking young immigration security type. Bobby was now surrounded by about at least 4 or 5 immigration security types plus the translator. The security types kept coming and going but overall their number slowly increased… Bobby demanded to know if he was under arrest and if so what were the charges against him. Bobby said he wasn’t moving until he found out what this was all about. Over and over and over again Bobby was asked if he wished to see someone from the U.S. embassy. Bobby was told he had a right to contact the U.S. embassy. Bobby was told maybe they can help you. Bobby always answered immediately and vehemently and with finality that he did not wish to see anyone from the U.S. embassy nor did he wish to contact the U.S. embassy. Bobby explained that the U.S. embassy was itself the problem not the solution. Bobby explained that the U.S. government is evil and that they were out to “get” him. Even the translator conceded to Bobby in Spanish that in his opinion Bush is a monster! Bobby asked to call a friend many times but they refused.

After everyone was standing in the hallway for about 45 minutes or so a half-crazed security official came out with Bobby’s passport and they showed Bobby what they said was his arrest warrant. But they wouldn’t let Bobby touch it. It appeared to be a 2 page document. It was in Japanese and English. Bobby tried to read the first page from a distance but only got a glimpse of the second page. The first page said that Bobby had illegally entered Japan and illegally left Japan!!! Bobby asked “When did I illegally enter Japan?” He was told it was all there on the arrest warrant. Bobby said “Where’s the date I illegally entered?” Bobby said maybe it’s in Japanese but that he didn’t see it in English. They said it’s there in English too. They said that everything on the arrest warrant was in Japanese and English. If the date when Bobby allegedly illegally entered Japan was in English or western numerals Bobby sure didn’t see it. The older half-crazed higher level immigration official told Bobby that his passport was not valid. Bobby said “Since when is it not valid? You mean it was not valid when I entered Japan a few months ago?” The kook answered “That’s right!” Bobby continued “It wasn’t valid when I entered Japan 3 months ago? Since when hasn’t it been valid?” The kook answered “Oh, long before that!” Bobby pressed on “Since when hasn’t it been valid?” The kook answered since last November!!!

Fischer renounces US citizenship

Latest news: on August 10th Japanese immigration authorities moved Fischer from the small 'Narita Airport Detention Centre' to the larger 'Ushiku Immigration Detention Centre', some 50 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, Japan. Japanese immigration officials rejected Fischer's initial appeal against deportation last month and he has filed a second plea to Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa.

Fischer's lawyer Masako Suzuki said that immigration officials did not disclose the reason for the transfer, but that going by past cases it was likely Fischer would be kept there for some time and would not be deported imminently. "I think immigration is eyeing a long-term stay. It would seem natural to keep him at the airport if they were thinking of deporting him soon. The most important thing is to prevent him from being deported from Japan to the United States. So from that perspective it's not a bad sign."

In the following we bring you two letters handwritten by Fischer and addressed to the US consular authorities in Tokyo. In it the former world champion attempts to renounce his US citizenship.

August 6, 2004 From: Robert James Fischer at the Narita Airport Immigration lockup. To: “Peter” at the Tokyo U.S. Embassy.

Dear “Peter” (you won’t tell me what your last name is) I called you yesterday at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo at about 10:00 am and we discussed some of the various vicious crimes the U.S. and the Japanese governments have committed against me working in collusion and in conspiracy since at least July 13, 2004. I say “at least” because obviously the conspiracy to commit those crimes had to begin some time before July 13, 2004. I also told you that I wished to renounce my U.S. citizenship on that very day August 5, 2004. I asked that either you or someone else from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo come over to the Narita International Airport Detention center lockup immediately so I could officially renounce my U.S. citizenship on that very day, yesterday August 5, 2004. You made one excuse after another as to why neither you nor anyone else from the Embassy could come over to do it. Such as: you had no time that day, and no one else at the Embassy had time that day, you didn’t know the law and you’d have to study it first, also you would have to check with Washington D.C. first. I said could you or someone else from the Embassy come over tomorrow (i.e. today) to do it. You said you didn’t know and you couldn’t say. Judging by your jittery, jumpy nervous answers to my demand to officially renounce my U.S. citizenship I realized I’d hit a nerve. Apparently my renouncing my U.S. citizenship does not fit in too conveniently with the U.S.-Japanese plot to illegally deport me to my “home” country the U.S.A. and illegally try, convict, imprison, torture and murder me there. At about 9:30 am this morning I will request my kidnappers here to place a call with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo for about 10:00 am. I will again demand that either you or someone else from the Embassy come over here so that I can officially renounce my U.S. citizenship today. I’m quite sure that in violation of my rights you will not. (If I’m wrong so much the better.) But assuming that you won’t I will now do the job myself. Since you are refusing to cooperate as the U.S. law commands you to I believe this renunciation has full validity under the law. That is if one can even speak seriously about “law” in a lawless country like the U.S.A. Here goes: I am Robert James Fischer. I am a U.S. citizen. I was born on March 9, 1943 in Chicago, Ill. U.S.A. My U.S. passport no. is or was Z7792702. It was issued at the U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland. The issue date is January 24, 1997 and the expiry date is January 23, 2007. I Robert James Fischer do hereby irrevocably and permanently renounce my U.S. citizenship and all the supposed rights and privileges of United States citizenship. I will do my very best to get this letter hand delivered to you at the Tokyo U.S. Embassy today. Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I am free at last.

Robert James Fischer

August 10, 2004 From: Robert James Fischer at the Narita Airport Immigration lockup. To: “Peter at the Tokyo U.S. Embassy

Dear “Peter” (you wont tell me what your last name is) I just spoke with you again on the phone about you or someone else from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo coming out here this morning so that I can officially renounce my U.S. citizenship in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer and you flatly refused. You also said nobody else from the Embassy could come today to do it. I asked you if you had received my letter to you of August 6, 2004 and you said you had. I told you that in my opinion the letter was legally valid and that I was no longer an American citizen. I asked you if you agreed and you refused to answer. You said if I had any request to make to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo I should communicate it in writing by letter and then hung up. I have demanded that you or someone else from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo come out here every working day since Aug. 5, 2004 until today August 10, 2004 so that I could renounce my U.S. citizenship before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer. I spoke with you August 5, 2004, August 6 2004, and today August 10, 2004. I also called the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo yesterday August 9, 2004 to renounce my U.S. citizenship here in front of a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer but the Embassy secretary refused to put me through to you or anyone else at the Embassy and she hung up on me about 4 or 5 times. However she did admit that you were there at the Embassy at that time but that you were “unavailable” to talk to me. She also admitted that she believed that you had received my letter to you of August 6, 2004. Well, “Peter” (you won’t tell me what your last name is) that’s all by way of background. So now here is my demand to you and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. I demand that you immediately send a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer over to me at the Narita Airport immigration detention center lockup so that I can sign an oath of renunciation of my U.S. citizenship in front of him or her today. I’m told by my kidnappers here that they’re moving me to another prison today. They’re moving me to the Ushiko Immigration detention center lockup in Ibaragi prefecture. I’ll be leaving here at about 1.00 p.m and arriving at the Ushiko Immigration detention center lockup a few hours later. So if it’s too late to take the oath of renunciation here at Narita today we can do it tonight or tomorrow morning in Ushiko. I will endeavour to get this letter hand delivered over to you at your Embassy today. No more delaying games and royal runaround “Peter.” I demand my right to officially renounce my U.S. citizenship in front of a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer NOW. It’s not like the old days “Peter” all this is going to the Internet and the whole world is watching your chicanery and criminality. You’ve already physically destroyed my perfectly valid U.S. passport No. Z7792702 by punching holes through it. This illegal act was meant to criminalize me but in reality it only criminalized you and the U.S. government! O.K. “Peter” (you won’t tell me what your last name is) get off the stick and get yourself or someone else from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo over here or to Ushiko so we can officially do the renunciation bit.

Robert James Fischer

Fischer's confiscated passport

Appeal by a US chess player

Dear President Bush,

Bobby Fischer, an American citizen, was one of the most effective weapons against the Soviet Union during the cold war. In 1972 he defeated the World Chess Champion, Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union. He did this without ever having received one iota of support from the United States Government. The Soviets threw all their support behind Spassky and were deeply humiliated when Bobby Fischer beat him to become the new World Chess Champion. The United States government expressed appreciation, but nothing else.

Immediately the Soviets began preparations for taking back the title, because this was a very important public relations matter in the Soviet Union. The United States did nothing for Bobby Fischer, even then. In 1975 the Soviets managed to wrest the title from the United States by arranging the conditions of the next match in a way where they were sure Bobby would forfeit.

Not only did the United States suffer a humiliation at the hands of the Soviet Union, but the world was deprived of the beautiful chess that was probably the best that has ever been played. And, Bobby Fischer was punished by being thrown into a life of poverty without one person in the United States government lifting a finger to help. He continued in this life, subsisting on the charity of friends around the world.

The crime that Bobby Fischer is accused of committing was to play chess in 1992 (12 years ago) in a country against which there were sanctions. He played because this was the only place where he was offered this match and a way to earn money – something he had not had for the previous 17 years. The US Treasury department apprised him of the ban. To Bobby Fischer, this was just another slap in the face by his own government. So, he defied the ban, played chess, and had money to live from then until now.

Mr. President, our government has punished Bobby Fischer enough. It is time to show him and the entire world that we are compassionate people.

Bobby Fischer is not a threat to the United States. In fact, if you pardon him now and return his passport, he will be able to come home and once again be a proud citizen of the United States of America. The world community, much of which has lately scorned us, would look at us in a new and favorable light.

Especially at this time, I am sure that every chess player in America – and there are millions of us – will be inclined to vote to continue a strong, yet compassionate leader in the office of President. On the other hand, if you do not find it in your heart to show compassion to this man who has been such an asset and a loyal citizen of the United States in the past, then I know of one voter (and I am confident there are millions of others) who will be sure to do my best to see that the presidency resides with someone who really cares about America.

Susan M. Grumer
Exton, PA 19341

Susan Grumer was introduced to the world of chess as a player on the Men’s Team from the U.S. Virgin Islands in the 1972 Olympiad in Skopje. After a long absence from playing the game, she recently returned to chess and has been helping us on a regular basis with our ChessBase news site. Susan is a member of the Jewish faith.

Free Bobby Fischer

Free Bobby is the name of a web site where you can sign a petition to US president Bush and the United States Government to drop charges against Fischer and set him free from detention in Japan. Fischer may face a $250,000 fine, ten years in prison, or both. "Not a single person involved in the 1992 Fischer-Spassky Match has been indicted or even criticized for their participation," writes the site author. "No one except Fischer. No other Americans were indicted for their involvement in the organization and arrangement of the match and neither Boris Spassky, Lothar Schmid or others involved were faced with any rapprochement for their participation. In 1992 in Yugoslavia, Bobby Fischer's only crime was to play chess again, after years of isolation.

Fischer is unlikely to ever repeat his crime; it is assumed he has left chess forever. Through his exile, Fischer's punishment has already been severe. Twenty years after being hailed as a national hero in his home country, on the 20th anniversary of his legendary US victory in the 'Match of the Century', Bobby Fischer finally returned to chess and earned a US arrest warrant."

To date over 4000 supporters have entered their names in the petition list.

Official government and private organizations you can contact

Previous ChessBase articles

Spassky to Bush: Arrest me!
10.08.2004 Boris Spassky, who played the contentious return match against Bobby Fischer in Yugoslavia 1992, for which the latter is currently facing deportation and incarceration in the US, has appealed to President Bush to show mercy and charity for his tormented successor. If for some reason that should be impossible, Spassky suggests a very imaginative alternative...

Fischer's appeal rejected
28.07.2004 Bobby Fischer's appeal against his deportation was rejected today by Japanese authorities. Meanwhile the Icelandic Chess Federation has appealed to US president Bush to pardon Fischer and set up a petition web site to collect signatures. In Tokyo a "Free Fischer Press Conference" is scheduled for Thursday. More...

Fischer a sacrificial pawn?
25.07.2004 Bobby Fischer is still in detention at Narita Airport in Tokyo, traumatised but stubborn, "behaving like a Samurai". At the same time news outlets all over the world are covering the story, whit Fischer's brother-in-law Russell Targ assailing the Bush administration for playing election year politics with the former chess champion's freedom. There's a lot to be read...

Game of Life: Kasparov on Fischer - in full
20.07.2004 The news of Fischer's arrest in Japan came as a shock to Garry Kasparov, who was in a holiday camp working intensely on the games of his greatest American predecessor. In today's issue of The Wall Street Journal Kasparov assesses Fischer's chess career – for a public that was being exposed to his current situation. We now bring you Kasparov's full article.

Will Fischer be extradited?
19.07.2004 Chess legend Bobby Fischer, the hero of millions, languishes in the detention facilities of Narita Airport in Tokyo, waiting for a decision by Japanese Immigration authorities on his deportation to the US. We have collected all the documents and reconstructed a timeline to his arrest. Fischer, who has no legal counsel, is appealing for international assistance.

Bobby Fischer detained in Japan (updated)
16.07.2004 It's the latest twist in the sad tale of American former world champion Bobby Fischer. He has been detained in Japan and faces possible deportation to the US to face charges for playing in Yugoslavia in 1992. Fischer's website says he was "very nearly killed" in Japan. The story has been picked up by news services all over the world.

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