After four nights at an Australian immigration detention hotel, Novak Djokovic got his day in court on Monday in a deportation case that polarized views and garnered heartfelt support for the top-ranked tennis star in his native Serbia.
Djokovic had his visa revoked after arriving at Melbourne airport last week after Australian border officials ruled he did not meet exemption criteria for entry requiring that all non-citizens be exposed to COVID-19. Be fully vaccinated for -19.
His lawyers have since filed court papers in their challenge against deportation from Australia that show Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 last month and recovered. He used this as a basis for applying for a medical exemption to Australia’s strict vaccination rules.
Australia’s Federal Circuit and Family Court began hearing appeals to cancel visas in Melbourne on Monday.
Reference: Drama Down Under: Visa cancelled, Novak Djokovic expected to pull out of Australian Open
On Sunday, Australian media reported that a federal government’s bid for additional time to prepare its case against Djokovic had been rejected. An application by Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews over the weekend called for the final hearing to be postponed by two days – just five days from the start of the Australian Open.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly denied the application, and the case reopened Monday as planned.
Djokovic’s lawyers filed 35-page arguments in which they outlined 11 grounds for appeal. He termed the decision to cancel the visas as illogical and unfair.
Public prosecutors were to argue for their deportation later on Monday.
In Serbia on Saturday, Djokovic’s family held a rally in support of him in Belgrade for the third day in a row, and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic assured them of his government’s support to ensure he can enter Australia and return to his homeland. Australian Open title defense. The tournament will begin on January 17th – just a week from his court date.
“We’ve managed to make sure she’s given a gluten-free diet, as well as exercise equipment, a laptop and a SIM card so she can stay in touch with her family,” Brnabic said. It comes after Australian media reported that immigration officials denied Djokovic’s request to have a personal chef cook for him at the immigration hotel.
According to police estimates, about 120 vaccine opponents marched in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Sunday, raising slogans in support of Djokovic, among other things.
Protesters, including several health workers who were suspended for refusing vaccination, gathered in the city’s iconic White Tower and marched to the Serbian consulate.
Demonstrators chanted Djokovic’s name as well as “We are all Djokovic,” “Greece, Serbia, the Coalition,” and “Greece, Serbia, Orthodoxy.”
There is widespread pro-Serb sentiment in Greece based on the two countries’ adherence to Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Djokovic is a nine-time Australian Open champion. He holds 20 Grand Slam singles titles, a men’s record he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
In Djokovic’s ideal world, he would be eating food cooked by that personal chef, working out at the gym and training on the court every day since his arrival, mingling with his support group and friends along the way.
Instead, he is confined to his room at a modest immigration hotel in downtown Melbourne, with guards on the corridor.
The matter has become complicated.
Djokovic was granted a medical exemption on 1 January supported by the Victoria state government and the organizers of the Australian Open, based on information provided to two independent medical panels. They were approved for visas electronically.
But it has since emerged that the Victoria state medical exemption, allowed for people who tested positive for the coronavirus within the past six months, was deemed invalid by federal border officials.
This would have been valid to enter the tournament, but it was not sufficient to satisfy the Australian Border Force.
Australian media reported details of court documents, which are expected to be testified on Monday. This suggests that Djokovic had received a letter from Tennis Australia’s chief medical officer on 30 December stating that he had been granted ‘medical exemption from COVID vaccination’ on the grounds that he had recently been diagnosed with COVID-19. were recovered from
It said Djokovic’s first positive test was on December 16 and on the date of release, the waiver said the 34-year-old had “no fever or respiratory symptoms in the past 72 hours.”
Djokovic attended an event to honor young tennis players in Belgrade on 17 December. The incident was covered by local media and parents posted pictures on social media showing Djokovic and the children not wearing masks. It is not clear whether Djokovic knew the results of his test at the time.
On 14 December, Djokovic attended a Euroleague basketball game between Red Star and Barcelona at a packed sports hall in Belgrade. He was photographed hugging several players from both the teams, including some who soon tested positive.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said that “rules are the rules” and that incoming travelers were responsible for meeting border rules, took advantage of Djokovic’s case to improve his poor position in popularity polls ahead of an impending election. has been accused of doing.
Djokovic’s plight has prompted claims from Serbia that Djokovic is being treated like a prisoner. The player himself appears to have become a standard-bearer for anti-vaccine groups, including some who have gathered outside his immigration hotel for support.
The organizers of the Australian Open are taking some heat on Djokovic’s situation and for obvious good reasons.
Tennis Australia, which runs the tournament and organizes logistics for more than 2,000 visiting players, staff and officials, misinterpreted players about the acceptable grounds for exemptions. This included an explanation that he would be eligible if he had a coronavirus infection within the past six months. Organizers have blamed the federal government for mixed messages on the policy.
Tournament director Craig Tilly continues to work with Djokovic in the background, or so it seems.
Tilly’s video message to Australian Open staff about the tournament’s “tough times in the public arena” was published in News Corp newspapers on Saturday.
“There has been a situation that concerns some players, especially Novak … in a situation that is very difficult,” Tilly said in the video. “We are a player-first event. We are working closely with Novak and his team, and others and their team, who are in this situation.”
Djokovic was one of two players who were detained at the hotel, which also houses refugees and asylum seekers. A third person, said to be an officer, left the country voluntarily after a Border Force investigation.
The other player was 38-year-old doubles specialist Renata Vorasova, who had already been in Australia for a week before being investigated by border officials.
The Czech foreign ministry said Vorasova left Australia voluntarily after deciding not to appeal against the decision.
The court hearing on Monday will decide whether Djokovic is not behind him as well.