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Bobby Fischer Freed; Leaves Japan

Sporting a long beard, chess legend Bobby Fischer walked free from a Japanese detention center Thursday and immediately headed to the airport to fly to his new home — Iceland — following a nine-month standoff with Tokyo officials trying to deport him to the United States.

Before leaving, however, the eccentric genius offered a few parting shots to the leaders of Japan and the United States, whom he accused of "kidnapping."

"I won't be free until I get out of Japan," he told a crowd of reporters at the airport here before boarding his flight to Copenhagen en route to Reykjavik. "This was not an arrest. It was a kidnapping cooked up by Bush and Koizumi," he said, referring to President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

"They are war criminals and should be hung," he said.

Fischer, with a long white beard and wearing jeans and a baseball cap, left the immigration detention center on Tokyo's outskirts early Thursday morning. Japanese officials released the eccentric chess icon after taking him into custody in July, when he tried to leave the country using an invalid U.S. passport.

Fischer was accompanied to the airport by his fiancee, Miyoko Watai — the head of Japan's chess association — and Iceland's ambassador to Japan Thordur Oskarsson.

Fischer, 62, was in high spirits and characteristically defiant as he arrived at the airport.

As he walked toward the airport entrance, he turned, unzipped his pants and acted like he was going to urinate on the wall. He called Japan's ruling party "gangsters," and said he was being hounded by the United States because it is "Jew-controlled."

Fischer claims his U.S. passport was revoked illegally and sued to block a deportation order to the United States, where he is wanted for violating sanctions imposed on the former Yugoslavia by playing an exhibition match against Russian Boris Spassky in 1992.

This week, Iceland's Parliament stepped in to break the standoff, giving Fischer citizenship. Iceland is where he won the world championship in 1972, defeating Spassky in a classic Cold War showdown that propelled him to international stardom.

Moving to Iceland doesn't necessarily mean Fischer has beaten Washington's effort to prosecute him. Iceland, like Japan, has an extradition treaty with Washington.

A federal grand jury in Washington, meanwhile, is reportedly investigating possible money-laundering charges involving Fischer and he may face tax-related charges as well. Fischer was reported to have received $3.5 million from the competition in the former Yugoslavia and boasted then that he didn't intend to pay any income tax on the money.

Oskarsson, the ambassador, had said before Fischer's release that Washington sent a "message of disappointment" to the Icelandic government over giving Fischer citizenship.

"Despite the message, the decision was put through Parliament on humanitarian grounds," Oskarsson said.

In Washington on Tuesday, the State Department said it had officially asked Japan to hand over Fischer.

"Mr. Fischer is a fugitive from justice. There is a federal warrant for his arrest," said Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman for the State Department.

Japan's top government spokesman, Hiroyuki Hosoda, told reporters after Fischer's release that he believed "there is no problem" in Tokyo's handling of the case.

Tokyo initially refused Fischer's request to go to Iceland, saying Japanese law only allowed his deportation to the country of his origin. But following Iceland's decision on Monday, Japanese Justice Minister Chieko Nono said officials would consider letting Fischer go there.

Fischer had sued Japanese officials to prevent them from deporting him, and his lawsuit stalled the process long enough for him to win a passport from Iceland.

Fischer became a chess icon when he dethroned Spassky in a series of games in Iceland, claiming the United States' first world chess championship in more than a century.

But he gave up the title a few years later to another Soviet, Anatoly Karpov, by refusing to defend it. He then fell into obscurity before resurfacing to play the 1992 exhibition rematch against Spassky in the former Yugoslavia.

Fischer won the rematch. But his playing violated U.S. sanctions imposed to punish then-President Slobodan Milosevic. If convicted, Fischer — who hasn't been to the United States since then — could face 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Though generally a recluse, Fischer has emerged from silence in radio broadcasts and on his Web page to express anti-Semitic views and rail against the United States.