To skirt extradition, Fischer claims German citizenship

U.S. is after chess legend for playing in illegal game

July 30, 2004|By Bruce Wallace | Bruce Wallace,LOS ANGELES TIMES

TOKYO - Chess legend Bobby Fischer has told Japanese authorities that he considers himself a German citizen, invoking his German-born father in an attempt to stymie any effort to extradite him to the United States.

Fischer is being held at Tokyo's Narita International Airport, where Japanese immigration officials seized him - after a rough struggle, they acknowledge - on July 13 as he tried to leave Japan for the Philippines. The Japanese government ruled Tuesday it would deport Fischer for entering the country in April without a valid passport.

Washington canceled Fischer's U.S. passport in December 2003 on the grounds the one-time world chess champion is a fugitive. He is wanted for defying an order by then-President George Bush against traveling to the disintegrating Yugoslavia in 1992 to play a $5 million chess exhibition against Cold War-era rival Boris Spassky.

Fischer claims he never received notification that his passport had been revoked. He is almost certain to appeal the Japanese government deportation order before its deadline of midnight tonight, friends here said.

Meanwhile, speaking through a loosely organized committee of about 20 chess-playing supporters in Tokyo yesterday, Fischer launched a counter-strike against the Japanese government. Noting that his father, Hans Gerhardt Fischer, was born in Berlin in 1908, Fischer said he is a German citizen, entitled to a German passport.

Under German law, anyone born before 1975 to a German father who was married at the time can become a citizen.

Significantly in Fischer's case, Germany's extradition treaties do not allow its citizens to be deported to face charges in other countries, German officials in Tokyo said.

"Bobby is without a doubt a German citizen by their blood law, and he is entitled to a passport," Russell Targ, Fischer's brother-in-law, said in a phone interview from Palo Alto, Calif. "He has not committed any crime in Japan; he is only being held for not having a valid passport," Targ said.

German officials in Japan said Fischer would have to prove his father was a German citizen in March 1943 when Fischer was born in Chicago for citizenship rights to be passed on. They said Fischer will have to come to them in person if he wants to apply for a passport.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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