US threatens Iceland, Fischer Committee appeals

by ChessBase
12/22/2004 – 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 But the Icelandic government has stated that its offer "will not be withdrawn despite pressure from the United States."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.

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Fischer Committee Appeals

The Committee to Free Bobby Fischer, headed by John Bosnitch, has sent an "urgent Christmas humanitarian appeal" to Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to release Fischer and allow him to travel to Japan. "Mr. Fischer's detention in Japan has become an international embarrassment to both Japan and the United States and has given the impression to many people that Japan is merely acting as an agent of the United States", writes Bosnitch, who has served as a consultant to the Japanese Prime Minister's Office on international affairs and is providing his advice to Fischer at no charge.

"Mr. Fischer is a legendary genius who has been described as a living example of 'world heritage'," he continues. He did not appeal to 'Lion Heart' Koizumi earlier because there was no mechanism available under Japanese law that might have allowed him to make a discretionary decision to resolve this matter. But the situation changed when the Government of Iceland announced that Fischer would be accepted as a resident of Iceland and that that it will consent to his entry without a passport.

Bosnitch closes with the appeal: "Mr. Prime Minister, I implore you to be truly lion-hearted and to accept the offer from the highest levels of the Icelandic government that would save face for everyone and let Bobby Fischer, one of the most famous men of the past century, live out his days in peace and freedom."

Here's the full text of the Committee's letter to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi

Icelandic Government
fights for Fischer

Bobby Fischer of course remains incarcerated in his Japanese prison, while a committee in Iceland has been working to find him a home on their island country.

Iceland's Foreign Minister, David Oddsson (picture left), has played a key role in the efforts to free Fischer. As Einar S Einarsson, Secretary of The RJF Committee in Iceland, wrote us: "Mr Oddsson is now playing the middlegame with the US and Japanese authorities, which seems to be quite complicated. Still we think the endgame is won and hope that Bobby will be back to the TOP with in couple of weeks. Iceland is at the top of the (chess) world as you know."

News stories

  • Reuters: Iceland Faces U.S. Pressure Over Chess Champ Fischer
    Iceland is under U.S. pressure to drop plans to offer a home to fugitive former chess champion Bobby Fischer, who is wanted for breaking sanctions against Yugoslavia in 1992, officials said Monday. "We received a message from the U.S. government Friday suggesting that the Icelandic authorities withdraw the offer to Fischer," Illugi Gunnarsson, an aide to Foreign Minister David Oddsson, told Reuters. He said the government had not yet responded. Icelandic immigration officials said last week that as Reykjavik had an extradition agreement with Washington it would have no choice but to send Fischer back to the United States. But Oddsson, quoted by newspaper Morgunbladid, suggested this was not the case as the statute of limitations had run out. "His actions are not illegal, at least not anymore," he said. Reykjavik made its offer to Fischer after Icelandic chess fans persuaded him to write to their government requesting residency.
  • Aljazeera: Chess star eyes up Icelandic move
    Iceland's offer to grant US chess legend Bobby Fischer a residency permit will not be withdrawn despite pressure from the United States. According to the Icelandic government on Monday, the US ambassador in Reykjavik, James Gadsden, was informed that its offer to Fischer stands. But Iceland said it would not withdraw its offer because the US has not officially requested Fischer's extradition from Japan. "The basis of the decision is that the US government has not asked Japan for the extradition of Bobby Fischer," the foreign ministry said. Reykjavik maintains that under Icelandic law the statute of limitations on sanction violations from 1992 has expired. Meanwhile Fischer told Icelandic radio on Monday that he was carrying a valid US passport issued in 1997 when he was arrested in July in Japan. He claimed it was invalidated and destroyed after his arrest. He said he would die in jail if he were to be extradited to the US. "There is no question, that I will never get out alive," he said.

    Aljazeera published this picture of the Japanese immigration centre in Ushiku, where Fischer is currently being held.

  • U.S. presses Iceland not to aid chess player
    Iceland's offer to grant U.S. chess legend Bobby Fischer a residency permit will not be withdrawn despite pressure from the United States to do so, the Icelandic government said yesterday. "The U.S. ambassador to Iceland was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and was told that Iceland's offer to Fischer stands," the ministry said in a statement.

  • Caspar Star Tribune: Iceland reveres Bobby Fischer
    It may be hard for some to understand why Iceland would offer a residency permit to Bobby Fischer, the surly former chess champion now detained in Japan and wanted in the United States. But Fischer put this small, isolated country on the map during his career, and some Icelanders say it's time to repay the favor. "When Fischer came here in 1972 to play chess with Soviet Boris Spassky, it was the biggest international event to take place in Iceland in the then 28-year history of the republic," said Hrafn Jokulsson, chairman of the chess club Hrokurinn, or the rook. The next year, President Richard Nixon and French President Georges Pompidou visited Iceland, and the 1986 meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev would not have taken place without Fischer, Jokulsson said. "He put Iceland on the map, and we don't forget our friends," said Jokulsson, who has campaigned on Fischer's behalf.

  • Chess columnist Mig Greengard speculates that the US "suggestion" (see Reuters report) to Iceland may just be gamesmanship. "The US can act like they care so as not to appear to coddle someone who cheered 9/11, Iceland can make a show of standing up to the US, and they both get what they want. My theory that the US just wants Fischer to disappear will be largely proven wrong if they move to extradite. But basically if they don't get him, they probably didn't want him."

  • Finally the question arises: if Fischer was breaking US or UN sanctions in 1992 when he played his "return match" against Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, and if that is the reason that the US administration is seeking to incarcerate him, then what steps will the same administration take to punish the United States Chess Federation, which traded vigorously (US $300,000+) with the Yugoslav Chess Informant books during the sanction period?

Fischer Committee Appeals

December 20, 2004

The Right Honorable Junichiro Koizumi
Prime Minister of Japan
Cabinet Secretariat
1-6-1 Nagata-cho
Tokyo 100-8968

Urgent Christmas Humanitarian Appeal

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

I am writing to you on behalf of The Committee to Free Bobby Fischer, about the detention of Mr. Robert James Fischer at the East Japan Detention Center in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture.

The Japanese Immigration Bureau has been holding Mr. Fischer (Chess World Champion 1972~) for more than five months. He was stopped at Narita Airport on his way out of Japan on July 13, 2004 after the U.S. embassy informed the Japanese Immigration Bureau that it had revoked Mr. Fischer's U.S. passport. The Immigration Bureau then determined that Mr. Fischer was in violation of Japanese law by being in the country without a valid passport and ordered him to be detained pending deportation. Mr. Fischer has since applied for refugee status in Japan, and has appealed the Justice Minister's deportation order in a legal action that is still before the Japanese courts.

I and other individuals around the world have volunteered to defend Mr. Fischer and to seek his freedom from what we see to be unjustified charges. In the course of our defense of Mr. Fischer's fundamental human rights we have uncovered incontrovertible evidence that the U.S. State Department did not follow the mandatory U.S. legal procedures necessary to properly revoke Mr. Fischer's passport. Instead, certain officials operated outside the law in an effort to have Japan deport Mr. Fischer to the United States in what would effectively be an extra-legal "back-door" extradition for totally unrelated charges dating back to 1992. This maneuver, if successful, would have violated the terms of the Japan-U.S. Extradition Treaty and impinged upon Japanese sovereignty.

Mr. Fischer's detention in Japan has become an international embarrassment to both Japan and the United States and has given the impression to many people that Japan is merely acting as an agent of the United States. A continuation of this situation is detrimental to the image of both Japan and the United States, not to mention threatening the physical and mental well-being of Mr. Fischer, a legendary genius who has been described as a living example of "world heritage."

I did not write to you earlier because there did not appear to be any mechanism available under Japanese law that might allow you to make a discretionary decision to resolve this matter in an amicable way.

The situation has now changed. On December 15, 2004, the Government of Iceland announced that it is willing to accept Mr. Robert James Fischer as a resident of Iceland and that it will consent to his entry to Iceland without a passport. Until this offer, it would have been difficult for Japan to allow Mr. Fischer to travel out of the country, as he was not in possession of any valid travel document.

Mr. Prime Minister, I have personally served the interests of Japan by acting as a consultant to the Japanese Prime Minister's Office on international affairs in the former Yugoslavia during the term of the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. I provided my advice to what is now your office at no charge, on a completely voluntary basis, just as I am now advising Mr. Fischer at no charge. In each case I have acted in the interest of truth and fairness.

I am also a regular subscriber to your e-mail magazine. Your e-mail magazine titled 'Lion Heart' carries an explanation of its title. It calls 'Lion Heart' a reference to "the Prime Minister's lion-like hairstyle". I beg to differ. I would suggest that the expression lion-hearted is a way of describing the heart, not the hair, of an honorable and great man who exhibits the bravery needed to do the right thing under difficult circumstances. The term lion-heart was most famously associated with King Richard I of England. King Richard himself spent a long time unjustly detained in a foreign land and while imprisoned, he penned these words:

No one will tell me the cause of my sorrow,
Why they have made me a prisoner here.
Wherefore with dolor [sadness] I now make my moan,
Friends had I many but help have I none.
Shameful it is that they leave me to ransom,
To languish here two winters long.

No man, be he the king of the chessboard or the king of a country, should suffer extended detention when a fair and reasonable avenue exists to free him. Japanese law seeks that Bobby Fischer leave the country for not having a valid passport. Iceland seeks that Bobby Fischer come there and has expressed this wish in a statement by former Prime Minister David Oddsson, the current foreign minister. Indeed, Japanese law does provide for the exceptional procedure that it calls an "autonomous departure" in which a person facing deportation is allowed to leave Japan voluntarily in a way that amicably resolves a complicated and difficult situation. Iceland's offer to accept Bobby Fischer without a passport has suddenly made an "autonomous departure" possible.

Mr. Prime Minister, I implore you to be truly lion-hearted and to accept the offer from the highest levels of the Icelandic government that would save face for everyone and let Bobby Fischer, one of the most famous men of the past century, live out his days in peace and freedom. If I could assist in the realization of this worthy goal, I would of course be most willing and ready to meet you or any of your staff, in person, at any time, to answer questions or provide other information about this matter.

Most sincerely,
John Bosnitch
The Committee to Free Bobby Fischer

Previous ChessBase articles

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!'
18.10.2004 Bobby Fischer, still in detention in Japan, has spoken out again in an interview, this time threatening the Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi and US President Bush: "You are going to pay for this, and you are going to pay for your crimes in Iraq too." His new lawyer, Richard J. Vattuone, plans to release documents to prove US government involvement in a plot against Fischer.

'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'
17.08.2004 Bobby Fischer, the former world chess champion, plans to marry the president of the Japan Chess Association (and four-time Japanese women's champion) Miyoko Watai. This was reported in newspapers and wire services last night. Now Watai-san has sent us a statement explaining the background of her personal relationship with Fischer.

Fischer renounces US citizenship
15.08.2004 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...

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, with 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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