Will Fischer be extradited?

by ChessBase
7/19/2004 – 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.

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Fischer at his prime, and today (picture below)

The International Herald Tribune reports that it was not immediately clear if Fischer would be handed over to the United States under its extradition treaty with Japan. Fischer is accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against the former Yugoslavia by playing an exhibition match there in 1992.

The Trib speculates, as do a number of other newspapers, that the detention gives Japan a chance to show its cooperation with the United States just days before Charles Jenkins, 64, an American accused of deserting from the U.S. Army nearly 40 years ago, has arrived in Tokyo for medical treatment. This has set the stage for a possible extradition battle between Japan and the United States. Jenkins is married to a Japanese woman and the Japanese government has appealed for leniency so that the family can live together. There has been no such support for Fischer, whom Tokio may be using to demonstrate willingness to cooperate with Washington while still making its case on leniency for Jenkins.

Reconstruction of the case

The documents which we provide in facsimile below show that Fischer was indicted for "knowingly and wilfully performing a contract in support of a commercial project in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" in October 1991, and was issued an order to cease and desist in August 1992 by the Columbia District Court. On December 15, 1992, the United States District Court of Columbia issued a warrant for Fischer's arrest. Fischer avoided incarceration by remaining abroad, mainly Germany, Hungary, the Philippines and Japan.

On December 11 2003 the Embassy of the United States in Manila, Philippines, revoked Fischer's passport number Z7792702, issued on January 24, 1997 at the American Embassy in Bern, Switzerland "and any other US Passport you may possess". In a letter to Fischer he is advised of his right to a hearing. "If you desire such a hearing," US Consular official Theodor Allegra states, "you must notify this office within 60 days after receipt of this notice." Fischer is advised that a requst for hearing "does not repeat does not" serve to stay the revocation action taken by the Department of State.

From his jail cell at Narita Fischer, who has at the present time no legal council and cannot be contacted by phone, told us through the head of the Japan Chess Association, Miyoko Watai, that he had not received the December 11th notice about his passort. For that reason he missed the chance to notify the office within 60 days after receipt of the notice. This would appear plausible, since Fischer's place of residence is not generally known, and the notice itself contains no address to which it should be delivered.

On July 13 the Immigration Officer at Narita Airport issued a notice informing Fischer that landing permission that had been granted to him at Narita on April 15, 2004, had been cancelled "retrospectively". On July 15 Fischer was arrested and served a notice of decision by the ministry of Justice in deportation proceedings that had been initiated against him. On the same day Fischer was arrested and incarcerated in the detention facilities of Narita Airport.

Appeal for help

Through Miyoko Watai Fischer is appealing for help in the form of an immediate offer of "political asylum from a friendly third country". Any country wishing to offer Bobby Fischer political asylum should do so immediately at the following address: Miyoko Watai Japan Chess Association, Nishikamata 8-2-1-220, Tokyo 144-0051, Japan Tel & Fax: 81-3-3735-3675 E-mail: info(at)jca-chess.com.

Miyoko Watai has drawn our attention to the fact that both Boris Spassky and Lothar Schmid, who took part in the 1992 match in Yugoslavia, have faced no trouble in their countries of residence, France and Germany respectively. Miyoko has provided us with the following contact for people who may wish to contact Japanese authorities in this matter:

Relevant documents

Some of the following documents have appeared on Fischer's web site (see link below) but in very poor image quality. Sean Evans has reconstructed some of the less legible ones in PFD format. Below the first three documents we also give you the main passages in text form.

You can click each of the documents to enlarge it

August 21, 1992: Cease and Desist

Text (click above for a PDF reconstruction):



FAC No. 129405

Dear Mr Fischer:

It has come to our attention that you are planning to play a chess match for a cash prize in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) (hereinafter "Yugoslavia") against Boris Spassky on or about September 1, 1992. As a U.S. citizen, you are subject to the prohibitions under Executive Order 12810, dated June 5, 1992, imposing sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. The United States Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control ("FAC"), is charged with enforcement of the Executive Order.

The Executive Order prohibits U.S. persons from performing any contract in support of a commercial project in Yugoslavia, as well as from exporting services to Yugoslavia. The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the performance of your agreement with a corporate sponsor in Yugoslavia to play chess is deemed to be in support of that sponsor's commercial activity. Any transactions engaged in for this purpose are outside the scope of General License No. 6, which authorizes only transactions to travel, not to business or commercial activities. In addition, we consider your presence in Yugoslavia for this purpose to be an exportation of services to Yugoslavia in the sense that the Yugoslav sponsor is benefiting from the use of your name and reputation.

Violations of the Executive Order are punishable by civil penalties not to exceed $10,000 per violation, and by criminal penalties not to exceed $250,000 per individual, 10 years in prison, or both. You are hereby directed to refrain from engaging in any of the activities described above. You are further requested to file a report with this office within 10 business days of your receipt of this letter, outlining the facts and circumstances surrounding any and all transactions relating to your scheduled chess match in Yugoslavia against Boris Spassky. The report should be addressed to: The U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Enforcement Division, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Annex - 2nd floor, Washington D.C. 20220. If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact Merete M. Evans at (202) 622-2430.

Richard Newcomb
Office of Foreign Assets Control

November, 1992: Indictment

Text (click above for a PDF reconstruction):


The Grand Jury Charges that:

From on or about July 11, 1992 until on or about November 5, 1992, within the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the defendant ROBERT JAMES FISCHER, a United States person, did knowingly and wilfully perform a contract in support of a commercial project in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), in that the defendant ROBERT JAMES FISCHER did enter into and perform a contract between the defendant, the Jugoskandic Company of Belgrade, Yugoslavia and Boris Spassky to participate in the "World Chess Championship Match" in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), for a cash purse of $5 million in United States currency and a percentage of revenues from the commercial gain as a result of the performance of the aforementioned contract. (In violation of Title 50 USC §§1701, 1702, and 1705 and Executive Order 12810).

Jay B. Stephens, LL.B.
Attorney of the United States in
and for the District of Columbia

December 15, 1992: Warrant for arrest

Text (click above for a PDF reconstruction):


YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED to arrest the above-named person and bring that person before the nearest available magistrate to answer to the charge(s) listed below,



December 11, 2003: Revocation of passport

July 13, 2004: Narita Immigration Notice

July 15, 2004: Deportation proceedings


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