AMERICAN justice may have finally caught up with Bobby Fischer.
Wanted for defying an American ban on doing business with Yugoslavia in 1992, the one-time world chess champion was arrested by Japanese immigration officials this week as he tried to fly out of Tokyo's Narita airport. Fischer, who was headed to the Philippines, stands accused by the Japanese of travelling on a revoked American passport.
He now sits in an airport jail facing deportation and arrest by US marshals as early as today.
Returning to the United States in handcuffs would mark a bitter homecoming for the Brooklyn-raised exile. In the 1960s and 1970s, Fischer transformed chess from nerdy to sexy and became a Cold War-era hero by vanquishing Boris Spassky, the Soviet Union's best, in the legendary 1972 world championship.
He has been a recluse almost since then. Now 61, Fischer has emerged in public only fitfully in recent years, usually to berate the US government for what he regards as its evil foreign policies.
In a notorious interview on Philippine radio on Sept 11, 2001, he exulted in the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, saying it was 'wonderful news' and that America got what it deserved for backing Israel. 'I want to see the US wiped out,' he said.
His return to face trial on the 1992 charge - which could carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a US$50,000 ($85,850) fine - now looks likely.
Fischer has declared himself a political prisoner, appealing via a Japan-based Internet site for asylum in a 'friendly third country.' Through Ms Miyoko Watai, a friend from Tokyo's small chess community, he claimed to have been 'viciously attacked, brutalised, seriously injured and very nearly killed' during his arrest.
Japanese officials acting 'in collusion with the US government' destroyed his passport, he said.
The US case against him stems from his exhibition battle with Mr Spassky in 1992, which led to a US$3.5 million payday. Staged in Yugoslavia, a federation unravelling in civil war, his appearance violated UN sanctions and a US embargo. -- Los Angeles Times
posted by ChessManiac.com Team Member at Sunday, July 18, 2004
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