TOKYO (AP) – Japan on Tuesday ordered Bobby Fischer deported, but the former chess champion immediately appealed the case in court, meaning he won’t be sent out of the country right away. The government also ruled Fischer did not qualify as a political refugee.

Fischer has been in custody since he was detained by Japanese airport authorities on July 13 with an invalid U.S. passport. The former chess great is wanted in the United States for violating international sanctions against Yugoslavia in 1992. He contends the charges against him are politically motivated.

Fischer was informed of Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa’s decision to expel him and reject his asylum application by immigration authorities at the detention center north of Tokyo where he is being held.

The Justice Ministry did not say when Fischer would be deported, but ministry official Hideharu Maruyama said he would most likely be sent to the United States. Fischer’s supporters said an immigration case worker had threatened to put him on a plane as early as Tuesday night.

“The justice minister’s judgment was that there was no justification for Fischer’s appeal,” Maruyama said.

Fischer’s lawyers said they immediately filed suit at the Tokyo District Court seeking to halt the deportation, which should ensure Fischer is allowed to stay in Japan while the case is considered by a judge, his supporters said.

Fischer’s legal team accused Nozawa of relying heavily on advice from the U.S. government in making his decision. They also criticized Tokyo for rejecting Fischer’s asylum application only 20 days after it was submitted.

“This raises serious doubts about the fairness and neutrality of the refugee application process,” his lawyer Masako Suzuki said in a statement.

Fischer said he deserved refugee status because the U.S. was persecuting him.

Fischer’s supporters said they were confident he won’t be sent to the United States once a judge examines the case.

“Once we get this battle onto a level playing field, then Bobby Fischer should prevail,” said John Bosnitch, a Tokyo-based adviser to Fischer. “We are going to hang on and we are going to fight.”

Fischer rose to chess stardom by defeating Boris Spassky, formerly of the Soviet Union, in a series of games in 1972 to claim the world championship.

However, the chess legend became increasingly erratic and reclusive after the Spassky match and lost his title as world champion in 1978.

In a 1992 rematch against Spassky, Fischer won and collected more than $3 million in prize money, violating U.N. sanctions by attending the match held in the former Yugoslavia.

In recent years, Fischer has emerged from silence in radio broadcasts and on his Web page to express anti-Semitic views and rail against the United States.

On a Web site Fischer’s supporters acknowledge to be his home page, Fischer launches numerous attacks on Jews and decries the “international Jewish conspiracy” and “Jew-controlled U.S.,” which he says are behind plots to both rule the world and ruin his life. At one point, the site denies the Holocaust.

Fischer’s animosity toward his homeland is well-known, and he once praised the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in a radio interview, saying America should be “wiped out.”

Fischer has tried a number of steps to thwart his deportation since he was taken into custody. He first said he would renounce his U.S. citizenship. He then got engaged to the head of the Japan Chess Association, a Japanese woman who said they had been living together for the past four years.

Spassky also rushed to his aid, writing a letter to President Bush asking him to show Fischer mercy and not seek his extradition.

AP-ES-08-24-04 2210EDT

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