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Iceland Offers Asylum to Jailed Fischer

Friday, December 17, 2004; Page A30

TOKYO, Dec. 16 -- Iceland has agreed to offer asylum to Bobby Fischer, the former chess champion who is being held in a Japanese jail while fighting extradition to the United States, Iceland's ambassador to Japan, Thordur Oskarsson, said in an interview Thursday.

The offer may help the 61-year old New York City native avoid to the United States, where he is wanted for violating international sanctions in 1992 for playing a chess match in Yugoslavia. Fischer was arrested in July while trying to board a plane to Manila at Tokyo's Narita International Airport. He claims that the charges against him are politically motivated and connected to his anti-American statements -- including a remark on a Philippine radio station hailing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon.


Former chess champion Bobby Fischer at a 1992 match in Yugoslavia. His decision to play violated international sanctions. (Ivan Milutinovic -- Reuters)

Fischer has tried a number of tactics to avoid extradition, including an attempt to marry the acting head of the Japanese chess association. His appeals for freedom have been rejected by Japanese officials. Fischer's advocates in Japan -- who say he is also in the process of applying for German citizenship -- are hoping the offer from Iceland, the site of his historic defeat of Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union in 1972, may resolve his status.

"If the situation arises and Fischer is deported, Iceland is willing to give Mr. Fischer a resident permit," Oskarsson said. "The people of Iceland have strong feelings towards Mr. Fischer. Many Icelanders play chess, too. The chess association of Iceland has been pushing this issue on humanitarian grounds."

-- Anthony Faiola and Sachiko Sakamaki


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