TOKYO – Former chess champion Bobby Fischer (search), who has been fleeing criminal charges in the United States for years, wants to be released from detention in Japan (search) to go live in Iceland, Fischer's supporter and lawyer said Friday.
Iceland agreed this week to let Fischer reside there in the latest twist in the saga surrounding the American who rose to stardom in 1972 by beating then Soviet Boris Spassky (search) in the Icelandic capital.
Fischer — believed by many to be the best chess player ever — has been sitting in a Japanese immigration detention center for six months after he was caught trying to board a flight for the Philippines with an invalid passport.
The United States had revoked his passport. Fischer, who has criticized that action as illegal, is fighting a deportation order to the United States, where he is wanted on charges of violating international sanctions against Yugoslavia for playing chess there — a 1992 rematch against Spassky, which Fischer also won.
John Bosnitch, who has been fighting for Fischer's freedom, said he spoke with him Friday by phone and Fischer was pleased and accepted Iceland's offer.
"He feels vindicated in having stuck to his principles and not at any time having bent to the pressure that was being put on him," he told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Tokyo. "I believe that he has scored a major victory against arbitrary behavior by the U.S. government."
Bosnitch's comments Friday were the first confirmation that Fischer planned to forge ahead with the Iceland plans.
It is still unclear when Fischer, 61, may be released.
Immigration officials have said it's difficult for Fischer to be released to go to Iceland even with the latest offer.
Fischer technically doesn't have a passport, but Iceland has agreed to let him enter without a passport, Bosnitch said, showing a copy of a document from Iceland's immigration.
Masako Suzuki, Fischer's lawyer, said the release could come as soon as in a month as she foresaw no legal problems in having Tokyo change the destination of the deportation order to Iceland.
Fischer had applied for safe haven in Iceland and other nations, Bosnitch said. Word that Iceland had approved Fischer's application came Thursday from that country's embassy.
Fischer has denounced the deportation order to the United States as politically motivated, and his supporters have repeatedly called for his release. Fischer has said he wants to renounce his U.S. citizenship and applied while in detention here to marry a Japanese chess official.
He filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government to fight the deportation order. In a victory for Fischer, the Tokyo District Court issued an injunction in September against the deportation order while his case is heard. But the case was expected to take as long as a year.
Suzuki, the lawyer, said she would be happy to withdraw the lawsuit — but only after the Japanese government agrees to have Fischer depart for Iceland.
On Friday, his fiance Miyoko Watai, who was also at the news conference, said she had no comment on the marriage plans. But she said she would like to go to Iceland.
"Bobby is very interested in mineral spas and fish, more than eating meat. So Iceland is very similar to Japan," she said softly in English. "If he goes to Iceland, I would like to go there, too."
Fischer has baffled many with his erratic and reclusive behavior.
He virtually disappeared from the limelight for years before the 1992 rematch. In recent years, Fischer has emerged from silence in radio broadcasts and on his Web page to express anti-Semitic views and rail against the United States.