Fischer's lawyer Masako Suzuki speaks out

by ChessBase
2/2/2005 – Is Japan buckling under pressure by the US? Bobby Fischer, 61, former World Champion of Chess who has been jailed in Japan for six months now, is applying for Icelandic citizenship. But Tokyo seems to be balking at a constructive solution entailing his release to Iceland. Fischer's lawyer Masako Suzuki has given us an exclusive interview.

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"I hope the Japanese government does not do such a shabby thing"

By Dr. René Gralla, Hamburg/Germany

Tokyo/Hamburg – Maybe the place of his greatest triumph will be his last resort. In Reykjavik in 1972 Robert James Fischer, called "Bobby", won the World Championship Match of the century against the Soviet Russian Boris Spassky. Now the 61-year-old US citizen Fischer, who has been held in a Japanese detention facility for six monthes, has sent a letter to Mr. Halldor Blöndal, President of the Icelandic Parliament ("Althingi"), formally requesting citizenship of the Nordic nation. The latest news is that Iceland may award Fischer citizenship. Here are three of the hundreds that you can find in the international press:

Miyako Watai, Masako Suzuki, and
Fischer's legal advisor John Bosnitch

On July 13th, 2004, Mr. Fischer was arrested at Narita Airport, Tokyo, for allegedly attempting to leave the country on an invalidated passport. The USA had cancelled the validity of Mr. Fischer's passport before; Washington wants the former American chess hero to be extradited. Fischer is facing up to ten years in prison in the USA, since he has played a rematch 20 years after Reykjavik in the former Yugoslavia against Mr. Spassky in 1992, thus defying a UN embargo.

After the Japanese authorities rejected the most recent petition by Mr. Fischer's lawyers that he might be released from prison at the detention centre Ushiku outside Tokyo, and that he might be allowed to travel to Iceland where he has already been granted refuge, Dr. René Gralla has discussed the newest twist of the case with Mrs. Masako Suzuki, 31, spokeswoman of the team of Mr. Fischer's lawyers.

Interview with Mrs. Masako Suzuki

Gralla: There has been the chance of an elegant solution of the case of Mr. Fischer quite recently. Iceland has already granted a permit of residency to Mr. Fischer, and officials of the government at Reykjavik have stated that they would allow Mr. Fischer to enter the country even without a valid passport. Conforming to that a petition has been filed that Mr. Fischer might be released from prison at the Ushiku Detention Centre near Tokyo and that he might be allowed to travel to Iceland. But at a most recent hearing at a Tokyo court the lawyers of the Japanese Ministry of Justice have flatly rejected that plea by declaring that the Ministry was "not prepared to change Mr. Fischer's deportation destination to Iceland, and that he would have to remain in detention". Do I understand that statement correctly: Japan would allow Mr. Fischer to leave the country in case of deportation, and the destination of that deportation can only be the United States?

Suzuki: First, I want to make it clear that the denial by the Japanese Ministry of Justice of Mr. Fischer's departure to Iceland is clearly against the international law, the Constitution, the interpretation of the Japanese Immigration Act by the Immigration Authority itself, and by its practice. It is indisputable that anyone has the freedom to leave a country under the customary international law. It is also generally understood that the Japanese Constitution guarantees the freedom to leave a country. On top of that, according to the commentary written by the Director of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau, "the only purpose of deportation is to deport foreigners who have been finally denied residence in Japan", and that the decision of the destination is "an important matter for foreigners to be deported", not for Japan. As a natural consequence of this, in the past when a foreigner who has been issued a deportation order to his home country, but has claimed not to be able to go back to that country, and that he will be accepted by a third country, the Ministry of Justice has granted the departure from Japan to the third country without any problem. In such cases, the change of destination has never been raised as an issue to be argued or solved.

Gralla: Mr. Fischer has recently sent a letter to the President of the Icelandic Parliament requesting citizenship of the Nordic country. Since a special act of legislation is required for granting Icelandic citizenship to Mr. Fischer, are you optimistic that the Althingi will pass that special law in favour of Mr. Fischer?

Suzuki: Whether I am optimistic about the Icelandic citizenship matter? I really don't know the result because I am a lay person regarding the Icelandic law and political situation.

Gralla: Has the application for Icelandic citizenship to be considered as a last desperate attempt of Mr. Fischer to avoid deportation to the United States?

Fischer's legal team
with Masako Suzuki
in the lead. AP Photo

Suzuki: The expression "last attempt" is not right. I understand that this action was taken to make the Japanese Ministry of Justice lose one false explanation about their refusal of his departure from Japan to Iceland and to pressure them more. I've heard that they are saying that there is a problem on his deportation to Iceland because his home country is the United States. That is a clear false statement. Holding Icelandic citizenship is not necessary at all for Mr. Fischer to go to Iceland. However, if he obtains Icelandic citizenship, it will make it very difficult for the Ministry of Justice to refuse his departure to Iceland because Iceland is his home country then.

Gralla: Even if the Althingi will pass that required law granting citizenship to Mr. Fischer, what will be the reaction by Japan? Will they finally let him go?

Suzuki: They might try to find another excuse to refuse Mr. Fischer's departure. I sincerely hope, though, as a Japanese citizen that the Japanese government does not do such a shabby thing.

Gralla: There have been reports by news agencies that the Japanese Justice Minister, Mrs. Chieko Nohno, murmured "yes, yes" after being asked publicly, some weeks ago, if Japan would allow Mr. Fischer to leave for Iceland in the case that Iceland would grant the right to immigrate and the right of residency in Iceland to Mr Fischer. The authorities at Reykjavik have done this, but now Tokyo is balking again. What has made Mrs. Cheiko Nohno change her mind? Has the Tokyo government been buckling under US pressure?

Suzuki: It is a very obvious that the US has been pressuring Japan from the first beginning of this case. I don't think that Mrs. Nohno has changed her mind. According to the official release, she said at the press conference that she agreed to consider the change of destination. However, I believe she did not intend to do anything at all, and actually she has not done anything so far.

Gralla: A high-ranking official at the Japanese Ministry of Justice is reported to have stated: "We can keep [Mr. Fischer] as long as we like. We can eat him if we choose to." What is the meaning of that, especially of the last phrase?

Suzuki: Regarding the former expression, I don't clearly remember that he made such an explicit statement but certainly the Ministry of Justice applies the interpretation that it can indefinitely detain a foreigner who has been issued a deportation order until it executes the deportation order. With regard to the second sentence that has been reported: I'm afraid there was a kind of miscommunication; the lawyer of the Ministry of Justice did not make such a statement. It is said, however, that a high-ranking official of the Ministry of Justice has said several decades ago that they were at liberty to eat foreigners by boiling or baking; the expression to be "at liberty to eat someone by boiling or baking" is a figure of speech used in Japan.

Gralla: There have been plans of Mr. Fischer and Mrs. Miyoko Watai to marry. Mrs. Watai is the President of the Japanese Chess Federation. Would Mr. Fischer, after the eventual marriage between Mrs. Watai and Mr. Fischer, be safe with regard to extradition pleas by the US? Due to the fact that he would be married to a Japanese woman? How far have those marriage plans proceeded?

Suzuki: Extradition procedure has not been undertaken, and it is impossible to use extradition regarding Mr. Fischer's case because the crime which is said he has committed is not a crime in Japan. A sincere marriage with a Japanese citizen – like in the case of Mrs. Watai and Mr. Fischer – is a positive factor for deciding whether a foreigner should be granted a status to stay in Japan. The final recognition by the Ministry of Justice has not been made though the marriage registration has been submitted several months ago.

Gralla: Would it be helpful for the legal representation of Mr. Fischer if he would apologize publicly for his verbal attacks against the USA in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001? And if he would apologize for his anti-semitic insults that he has expressed on the occasion of several radio interviews? Can you – being the lawyer of Mr. Fischer – persuade him to do so?

Suzuki: If doing such a thing would help him, it would become very clear that his passport had been "revoked" and that he has been detained only because of political considerations – which means that those actions taken by the US and the Japanese government would have to considered illegal.

Gralla: There are reports that Mr. Fischer is getting sick as a result of six monthes in prison already ...

Suzuki: His health is suffering because of the detention. He gets dizzy often.

Gralla: You are the lawyer of a former legend of chess. Do you play chess yourself, or Shogi, the Japanese version of the game?

Suzuki: I don't play chess or Shogi at all.

Previous ChessBase articles

Bobby Fischer applies for Icelandic Citizenship
25.01.2005 After the Japanese authorities last week refused Fischer's request to be extradited to Iceland the chess legend, who is being held in a Japanese detention facility, has today written to the President of the Icelandic Althingi (picture), applying for Icelandic citizenship. A special law would have to be passed to grant Fischer's request.

Bobby Fischer – immigration plans on ice
22.01.2005 His supporters filed a petition that Fischer might be released from detention in a Tokyo jail and allowed to travel to Iceland, where he has been granted refuge. But Japanese Justice Ministry lawyers said they were not prepared to change Fischer's deportation destination to Iceland, and that he would have to remain in detention. A harsh blow for the chess legend.

Bobby Fischer – six months in jail
1/17/2005 On July 13, 2004 he was arrested at Narita Airport in Tokyo, for attempting to leave the country on an invalidated. Since then the greatest hero of Western chess has been languishing in a Japanese detention facility, now physically exhausted and suffering from dizzy spells. His Icelandic friends, who are offering him refuge, have launched another appeal to the authorities.

US threatens Iceland, Fischer Committee appeals
22.12.2004 Iceland is under US pressure to drop plans to offer a home to fugitive former chess champion Bobby Fischer, the Reuters news agency tells us. But the Icelandic government has stated that its offer "will not be withdrawn despite pressure from the United States." How do we know that? Among other things we read it in Aljazeera, would you believe? Here's the latest on this international confrontation.

RJF Committee mobilizes pro-Fischer forces
18.12.2004 While Bobby Fischer remains incarcerated in a Japanese prison a special committee in Iceland is moving to get him free and find him a home on the North-Atlantic island country. Iceland's foreign minister and a prominent political scientist have spoken out. Here's a report on Fischer's Iceland Connection...
Fischer to get refuge in Iceland?
12/16/2004 The news today on Bobby Fischer, who is currently being held in a Japanese detention facilities pending extradition to the US, is that the Icelandic government has offered to grant him a residence permit. In a telephone interview Fischer speaks about his plight in Japan and reacts to statements by Garry Kasparov on Fischer Random Chess. Full details...
Returning to the 'scene of the crime'
30.11.2004 Twelve years ago Boris Spassky played a match against Bobby Fischer in Yugoslavia. That got Fischer into a lot of trouble, while for Spassky, a French citizen, there were no repercussions. Now the tenth world champion returned to Belgrade to open the Belgrade Chess Trophy. Quick interview...
Fischer to Bush and Koizumi: 'You are going to pay for this!'
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'We want to live together forever'
01.09.2004 She collected pictures of her chess hero after his match with Boris Spassky in 1972. One year later they met in Tokyo – the start of a romance spanning decades. Since four years the two have lived together in downtown Kamata in Tokyo's Ota Ward. In an exclusive interview for ChessBase Miyoko Watai tells us the story of her life with Bobby Fischer.
Listen to Bobby Fischer
26.08.2004 In emotional phone calls from his detention cell in Tokyo ex world champion Bobby Fischer gave a Philippine radio station two lengthy interviews. Fischer is facing deportation and incarceration in the US, and voices his nightmare fears: "I will be tried, convicted, sentenced, imprisoned, tortured and murdered." We have summary transcripts and audio files.
Dramatic moments around Fischer's deportation
25.08.2004 First the Japanese Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa issued a deportation order against former world champion Bobby Fischer's, then Fischer's lawyers filed a lightning appeal on the grounds that physical deportation would be a flagrant violation of Fischer's right to full legal recourse and protection under Japanese law. Here's the full story by Fischer's legal coordinator.
'Bobby Fischer and I have decided to marry'
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Fischer renounces US citizenship
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Spassky to Bush: Arrest me!
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Fischer's appeal rejected
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Will Fischer be extradited?
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