Former world chess champion Bobby Fischer appealed to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Monday to help him renounce U.S. citizenship as he announced plans to marry a leading Japanese chess official, his lawyer said.
Fischer, wanted in the United States for allegedly violating international sanctions on former Yugoslavia, was detained in Japan last month when trying to travel on a revoked American passport. He has been fighting an attempt to deport him to the United States.
Fischer’s attorney, Masako Suzuki, said she faxed a letter to Powell and the U.S. Embassy in Japan demanding that an American consular officer be sent to the chess great’s detention center to accept his renunciation of U.S. citizenship.
In the letter, Suzuki accused the embassy of refusing to send an official to Fischer, requiring him to come to the embassy in person. Japanese officials, however, will not allow him to make the trip, she said.
“Although renouncing U.S. citizenship is a legal right …, the U.S. Embassy in Japan has made it impossible for Mr. Fischer to exercise his right,” said the letter, which was also faxed to news organizations in Japan.
Fischer’s animosity toward the United States is well-known. He once praised the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in a radio interview, saying America should be “wiped out.”
A separate statement from Suzuki also said Fischer and Japan Chess Association President Miyoko Watai had signed marriage papers that would be submitted later on Monday.
It was unclear whether Japanese officials would accept the marriage application. A Tokyo ward official, Yoshihisa Yabe, said a person in Fischer’s situation would have to either provide a valid U.S. passport or a U.S. government document confirming that his citizenship is valid in order to get married in Japan.
Japanese officials also require from foreign applicants a document confirming that they are not already married.
It was also not immediately clear how marriage to a Japanese citizen would affect Tokyo’s attempt to deport him to the United States. Suzuki said Fischer and Watai had been living together since 2000.
While U.S. Embassy officials routinely meet requests for consular visits from hospitalized or detained citizens, there is no time limit for making such visits, said U.S. Embassy spokesman Michael Boyle.
“There is no urgency in this particular case,” Boyle said. “There is no law or rule that says we must visit a person within a week or whatever.”
In addition, oaths of renunciation of citizenship made outside of an embassy or consular offices have been challenged legally in the past, and requests for such oaths require approval by the State Department before they can go ahead, Boyle said.
Even after such an oath has been administered, State Department approval is still needed before the renunciation of citizenship is valid, he said.
Fischer became an American icon when he defeated Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union in a series of games in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1972. The Cold War win made him the first U.S. world champion in more than a century.