24 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Long controversial, Bobby Fischer was typically outspoken with reporters at the airport in Tokyo.
Asserting that U.S. President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi are "war criminals" that should be hanged, Fischer said he was thrilled to be heading back to Iceland -- this time as a citizen:
"I am very happy to be leaving. I have nothing against Japan," he said. "You just have a criminal government here. Koizumi is a gangster, he takes orders from President Bush. That's it."
Fischer, 62, has been on the run from U.S. justice since 1992. That year, he violated U.S. sanctions against wartime Yugoslavia by playing Spassky in a rematch there.
"We've always followed him...so he's always played a very important role in our hearts. So we were very happy that we could help him." -- Icelandic Embassy official in Tokyo
He triumphed yet again, reportedly picking up $3 million for the victory -- and then promptly went into hiding.
Fischer had sought refugee status in Tokyo to avoid deportation to the United States. He renounced his U.S. citizenship and unveiled plans to marry companion Miyoko Watai, a four-time women's chess champion in Japan.
The situation was finally resolved earlier this week when Iceland's parliament voted to give Fischer citizenship.
Benedikt Hoskuldsson is an Icelandic embassy official in Tokyo. He told reporters there that his tiny North Atlantic country regards Fischer as something of a national icon.
"One has to think that Fischer came to Iceland in 1972," Hoskuldsson said. "He played the World Championship against the Soviet Union, which was a big machine. We immediately took sides with him, we favored him, so he was very important for us. Because of that we've always followed him, we've always known about him, so he's always played a very important role in our hearts. So we were very happy that we could help him."
Still, it remains unclear whether Fischer can live peacefully in Iceland, a longtime U.S. ally that has an extradition treaty with Washington.
Fischer has further incurred Washington's wrath by occasionally making outrageous statements about the United States.
After nearly a decade in hiding, he resurfaced after the 11 September 2001 attacks on America, praising the strikes in an interview with a Philippine radio station and saying he wanted to see the U.S. "wiped out."
(Compiled from wire reports.)