Australian judge says Djokovic can stay but the story is not over

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Tennis star Novak Djokovic won his court match on Monday to stay in Australia for the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19, but the film may not ended, with the government threatening to cancel his visa a second time and deport him.

Federal Court Judge Anthony Kelly reinstated Djokovic’s visa, which was revoked following his arrival last week because officials decided he did not meet the criteria for an exemption from entry requirements. that all non-citizens must be fully immunized.

The judge ruled the No 1 player had not had enough time to speak with his lawyer before that decision was made and ordered the government to release him within 30 minutes from a quarantine hotel in Melbourne. , where he spent the last four nights.

But government attorney Christopher Tran told the judge the immigration minister “will consider whether to exercise the right to revoke individual rights”.

That means the nine-time Australian Open and defending champion could once again face deportation and possibly miss the tournament, which starts on January 17. It also has could ban him from being in the country for three years.

The reciprocal partnership sent shockwaves across the world and sparked outrage in Australia, where many initially criticized the news that Djokovic, who has always been skeptical of vaccines, had been exempt from the rules. Strictly to compete in Melbourne. Many feel the star is getting special treatment as unvaccinated Australians face tough travel restrictions and quarantines. Court documents say he has not been vaccinated.

But when border police stopped him on arrival, others wept, saying he was being made a scapegoat by the Australian government, facing criticism for his recent handling of the pandemic. surname.

Speaking to the Prva television network in Belgrade, Serbia, the tennis star’s brother, Djordje Djokovic, described the judge’s ruling as a “huge failure for the Australian authorities.”

But he said the family was still hearing news that his brother might be in custody, though he did not give details.

“This is certainly politics, all of this is politics,” he added.

The Office of Home Affairs Secretary Karen Andrews confirmed that Novak Djokovic has yet to be arrested. His whereabouts are unknown, although hundreds of fans gathered late on Monday outside his lawyer’s office in Melbourne, many carrying Serbian flags and wearing the colors of red, white and blue. Banners. They chanted “Free Nole”, using the star’s nickname. Police then dispersed them as they surrounded a car trying to leave the area.

Djokovic, 34, boarded a plane to Australia last week, after receiving exemptions from vaccination regulations from the Victorian government and the Australian Open organizers. But upon arrival, federal border officials denied him, saying the immunity was null and void.

The reversal, following the outcry, cast some doubts over the ongoing politics, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative government seeking re-election to a fourth term in the polls. out in May.

While his government is widely praised for containing the nation’s COVID-19 death toll at the start of the pandemic, he has recently relaxed some rules, just as omicron cases are on the rise. fast. He has been criticized for that strategy as well as the lack of rapid antigen tests and his refusal to make the tests available to everyone free of charge.

Lawmaker John Alexander, a former tennis pro, said the immigration minister’s personal intervention would be unfair.

“The Minister’s Personal Authority to Cancel visas” is designed to stop criminals from walking on our roads, or to stop a potentially infectious person from walking their way. ta; They are not designed to assist in dealing with a potential political issue of the day,” wrote Alexander, who belongs to Morrison’s conservative Liberal Party but is retired.

At Monday’s court hearing, Djokovic’s lawyers argued that their client did not need proof of vaccinations because he had evidence that he had contracted the coronavirus last month.

Australia’s health authorities have ruled that people infected with COVID-19 within six months can get a temporary exemption from the vaccination rule.

Judge Kelly noted that Djokovic had provided officials at Melbourne airport with a medical exemption granted to him by Tennis Australia and two medical boards.

“The point I am a bit worried about is what more can this man do?” Kelly asked Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood.

Wood agrees that his client can’t do much more than that.

Transcripts of Djokovic’s interview with Border Force officials and his own affidavit reveal “repeated appeals to the officers he is dealing with that to the best of our knowledge” his, without judgment, he did absolutely everything that he understood was necessary for him to be able to enter Australia,” Wood said.

Djokovic’s lawyers described the cancellation as “seriously illogical.”

However, attorneys for Home Secretary Andrews said in their submission that an exemption from vaccination could only be granted to travelers who have recovered from a severe episode of COVID-19.

“There is no suggestion that the applicant (Djokovic) suffered from ‘acute serious medical illness’ in December” when he tested positive, the submission reads.

But in the end, government lawyers finally admitted that the decision to proceed with the interview with Djokovic in the early hours of Thursday and cancel his visa before he could contact Tennis Australia or the attorneys general. His is unreasonable.

Djokovic was told at 5:20 a.m. Thursday that he had until 8:30 a.m. to respond to a notice of his intention to cancel his visa. Instead, his comments were searched at 6.14 am

The decision to cancel his visa was made just over an hour later.

Minister Andrews did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But a spokesman for Alex Hawke, the minister for immigration, civil rights, migration services and multicultural affairs, acknowledged the court’s decision, adding that the minister’s personal discretion remained effect.

“The Minister is currently reviewing the matter and the process is continuing,” the spokesperson said.

The virtual hearing happened several times because so many people from all over the world tried to follow the proceedings.

At one point, an expired court link was apparently hacked and distributed pornography, website The New Daily News reported.

Djokovic has 20 Grand Slam titles in men’s singles, a men’s record he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Serbian Novak Djokovic fans surround a car as it leaves the lawyer's office following his in-court victory over the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, January 10, 2022. A judge The Australian has reinstated Djokovic's visa, which was canceled after his arrival last week because he had not been vaccinated.
Serbian Novak Djokovic fans surround a car as it leaves the lawyer’s office following his in-court victory over the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, January 10, 2022. A judge The Australian has reinstated Djokovic’s visa, which was canceled after his arrival last week because he was unvaccinated. (AP Photo / Mark Baker)


McGuirk reports from Canberra. Associated Press journalists John Pye and Dennis Passa in Brisbane, Tom Moldoveanu in Melbourne and Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed to this report. Australian judge says Djokovic can stay but the story is not over

Beth Allcock

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