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775: The M-List
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545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged

By John Bosnitch

Wrongs & rights

Bobby Fischer's leading supporter aims to set the record straight on his role in campaigning for the chess champ's civil liberties

John Bosnitch is heading up the Committee to Free Bobby Fischer
Miyoko Watai and Bobby Fischer earlier this year

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I hope this photo (to be included on web) will help me say more than there is space for on a single page. I am working with many others around the world to free Bobby Fischer, the world chess grandmaster, and I have been offered this chance by Metropolis to tell you why.

By the time you read this, 45 days will have passed since a man who was once a US national hero was violently seized by Japanese immigration officials acting on US orders. Bobby Fischer, who is now 61, was the boy wonder who in 1972 ripped the title of chess world champion out of Soviet hands and brought it back to America for the first time in a hundred years. Playing alone against the entire Soviet chess establishment, Fischer demolished all comers. He did so with a single-mindedness, extra-perceptiveness and energy that he retains today. Bobby is still Bobby.

Yet, in the last issue of this magazine, Steve Trautlein, who had earlier written an article about Fischer and the struggle to free him (Aug 6, Feature), swept aside a reader's complaint of bias and appeared to want to divert the debate to my own supposedly racist views. Trautlein's unfounded retort to the reader was an injustice to me, but much more seriously, it was a backhanded new attack on the already shredded human rights of Fischer, a man unlawfully locked up and unable to defend himself.

When I first visited Fischer at the jail at Narita to volunteer to help him, I told him that when I first meet a person, I always presume that they are good and mean well. I am going to presume exactly the same thing about Steve Trautlein, and simply explain my case. After all, if I can't help such an experienced journalist understand why Fischer's inalienable human rights transcend all other factors in this matter, how can I possibly hope to convince the Japanese government?

I believe that just by being a living human being, Fischer and every other person possess the right not to be subjected to vindictive political persecution, retroactive "justice," denial of due process, loss of liberty on the basis of secret evidence, selective justice, suspension of constitutional rights without grounds, nor, as the Queen of Hearts decreed in Alice in Wonderland, "first the sentence, then the trial."
If I could look out and see every Metropolis reader, I am sure that not one would nod their head in support such injustices. Yet Bobby Fischer has been subjected to each and every one of these injustices, and some of the same people who say they oppose such abuses still seem to think that because of the controversial ways in which he has exercised his constitutional right to free speech, Fischer is "getting what he deserves."

That is a fundamental contradiction. Anyone who accepts the unlawful mistreatment of Fischer is an accomplice to the violation of his inalienable human rights. In a similar vein, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, the author of Hitler's Willing Executioners, asserts that the Holocaust was only made possible by ordinary Germans, for whom the expression inalienable rights had no meaning. And so we come full circle.

Contrary to the false impression that I am protecting Fischer because I share his views, this is not an isolated case. The only reason I even knew how to help him is because I was already helping an African refugee, whom I met on the subway. And that refugee is but one of several dozen people of all races and origins that I have helped with such problems here in Japan. In fact, the very reason that I myself settled in Japan 15 years ago was that I was advised by lawyers to "travel abroad" after my testimony sent two police officers to jail for brutally beating an innocent bystander in downtown Montreal. In an unrelated case, the last time I was in Seoul, I extended a stopover for a few days to help a then stranger named Huey Weintraub survive his unwarranted jailing by South Korean authorities. I say these things to put Fischer's case in fair perspective, not to take any credit for myself.

Credit, if any, is due to my parents, and to all other parents like them, who try to raise their children to be good Samaritans and to love their neighbors, no matter who they are. Bobby Fischer is a neighbor to me on this earth, and more so here in Tokyo. He deserves the love that I saw in the mountain of photos that his fiancée Miyoko Watai reluctantly allowed me to look through to select the one displayed on this page. Bobby Fischer is our fellow human being. Let's all work together to make sure he gets treated like one. freebobbyfischer.net