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Fischer seeks third country refuges

August 03, 2004 10:51 IST

Former world chess champion Bobby Fischer, wanted by Washington for defying sanctions on Yugoslavia, is looking for countries willing to give him a home -- including perhaps Serbia and Montenegro -- if Japan goes ahead with a decision to deport him, an adviser said on Tuesday.

Fischer, 61, arrived in Japan in April and was detained at Narita airport near Tokyo last month when he tried to leave for the Philippines on a passport U.S. officials say was invalid.

Fischer has been wanted in the United States since 1992 when he violated U.S. economic sanctions by winning $3 million for beating old rival Boris Spassky in a match in Yugoslavia.

Earlier Report

Fischer applies for asylum in Japan

The elusive and eccentric chessmaster then vanished, only to resurface after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States to give an interview to Philippine radio in which he praised the strikes and said he wanted to see America "wiped out."

Japanese immigration officials rejected Fischer's initial appeal last week and his lawyer handed final documents for a second plea to Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa on Monday.

John Bosnitch, a Tokyo-based Canadian journalist and communications consultant who is advising Fischer, said a decision on an appeal would ordinarily take two or three weeks.

"It could take longer or they could accelerate it," he said.

Fischer has filed for refugee status in Japan and is also in contact with other countries that might accept him, Bosnitch said. Japan accepts only political refugees. Fischer's supporters in Japan say he is being persecuted by the United States.

One offer might be in the works from Serbia and Montenegro, a union of successor states to Yugoslavia, Bosnitch said.

"He likes Serbia-Montenegro, he has spent considerable time there. It's a chess-playing nation and he is revered there. He'd be a welcome guest and a happy visitor," Bosnitch added.

An official at the Tokyo embassy of Serbia and Montenegro told Reuters there was no official offer.


"Officially, it's an internal matter for the United States because Fischer is a citizen of the United States of America," said Aleksandar Djordjevic, embassy third secretary.

"That is our official position for the time being."

Bosnitch said Fischer still hoped he could win refugee status in Japan but was also looking at other options including seeking German citizenship, since his father was German.

"We are interested in having multiple possible destinations," Bosnitch said.

Fischer's supporters say he renewed his passport in 1997 and never received a letter issued in December 2003 revoking it.

U.S. State Department officials in Washington said it took years for the legal process to catch up with Fischer.

"Basically, it took that long for the system to work its way through but the process of revoking it was always in train," said a U.S. State Department official.

"You shouldn't read into the fact that (his passport) was later renewed as meaning the problems that started in 1992 were ignored," said the official, who declined to be identified.

Fischer became world chess champion in 1972 when he beat Spassky of the Soviet Union in a victory seen as a Cold War propaganda coup for the United States.

The title was taken from him three years later after his conditions for a match against Anatoly Karpov, also of the Soviet Union, were rejected by chess officials.

Karpov became champion by default.

Fischer disappeared until the 1992 match against Spassky, whom he again defeated, then vanished, as far as officialdom was concerned, until his remarks on the September 11 attacks.

Linda Sieg in Tokyo
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