Djokovic in detention as he awaits appeal : NPR

Novak Djokovic sits in the back of a car arriving at an immigration detention hotel in Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday, January 15, 2022.

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Novak Djokovic sits in the back of a car arriving at an immigration detention hotel in Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday, January 15, 2022.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic was reportedly re-arrested by immigration on Saturday after his legal challenge to avoid deportation from Australia for not being vaccinated against COVID-19 was moved to a higher court.

A Federal Court hearing was scheduled for Sunday, a day before the No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player and nine-time Australian Open champion began his title defense at the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year.

Police closed a lane behind the building where Djokovic’s lawyers are located and two vehicles left the building in the middle of the afternoon local time on Saturday. In television footage, Djokovic could be seen wearing a face mask in the back of a vehicle near an immigration detention hotel.

The Australian Associated Press reported that Djokovic was back in custody. He spent four nights confined to a hotel near central Melbourne before being released last Monday when he won a procedural court challenge against the cancellation of his first visa.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday blocked the 34-year-old Serb’s visa, which was originally revoked when he landed at a Melbourne airport on January 5.

Deportation from Australia can result in a three-year ban on returning to the country, although this can be waived depending on the circumstances.

Djokovic acknowledged that his travel statement was incorrect because it did not indicate that he had been to multiple countries in the two weeks prior to his arrival in Australia.

Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic practices at Margaret Court Arena on Thursday ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne on Thursday.

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Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic practices at Margaret Court Arena on Thursday ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne on Thursday.

Mark Baker/AP

But incorrect travel information is not the reason Hawke decided deporting Djokovic was in the public interest.

His lawyers filed documents in court on Saturday that revealed Hawke had stated that “Djokovic is perceived by some as a talisman of a community of anti-vaccination sentiments.”

Australia is one of the most highly vaccinated populations in the world, with 89% of people over the age of 16 fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

But the minister said Djokovic’s presence in Australia could be a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian public. Their presence “may be counterproductive to the vaccination efforts of others in Australia,” the minister said.

The Department of Health reported that Djokovic had a “low” risk of transmitting COVID-19 and a “very low” risk of transmitting the disease at the Australian Open.

The minister cited comments Djokovic made in April 2020, before a COVID-19 vaccine was available, that he was “opposed to vaccination”.

Djokovic had “previously stated that he would not want someone to force him to get vaccinated” in order to compete in tournaments.

The evidence “makes it clear that he has publicly expressed anti-vaccination sentiment,” the minister wrote in his reasons for canceling Djokovic’s visa.

Djokovic’s lawyers argue that the minister did not cite evidence that Djokovic’s presence in Australia could “foster anti-vaccine sentiment”.

Djokovic will be allowed out of hotel detention on Sunday to visit his lawyers’ offices for the video court hearing.

On Saturday, Judge David O’Callaghan suggested that a full court rather than a single judge hear the case on Sunday. A full bench is three or five judges.

A full bench would mean that any verdict would be less likely to be appealed. The only avenue of appeal would be to the High Court and there would be no guarantee that that court would agree to even hear such an appeal.

Djokovic’s lawyer, Paul Holdenson, opted for a full court, while Hawke’s lawyer, Stephen Lloyd, preferred a single judge.

Legal observers suspect that Lloyd wants to keep open the option of another Federal Court appeal because he believes the minister can mount a stronger case without the rush to reach a verdict before Monday.

Chief Justice James Allsop will decide how many justices hear the case.

Saturday’s case was elevated from Federal Circuit and Family Court to Federal Court. But the number of judges who will hear the case after 9:30 a.m. on Sunday has not yet been determined.

Djokovic has won the last three Australian Opens, part of his total of 20 Grand Slam championships. He is tied with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the most by a man in history.

In a social media post on Wednesday that constituted his longest public comment yet on the episode, Djokovic blamed his agent for checking the wrong box on the form, calling it “a human error and certainly not deliberate.”

In that same post, Djokovic said he went ahead with an interview and photo shoot with a French newspaper in Serbia despite learning he had tested positive for COVID-19 two days earlier. Djokovic has been attempting to use what he says was a positive test taken on December 16 to justify a medical exemption that would allow him to bypass the vaccine requirement on the grounds that he already had COVID-19.

In canceling Djokovic’s visa, Hawke said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government “is strongly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Morrison himself welcomed Djokovic’s pending deportation. The episode has struck a chord in Australia, and particularly in the state of Victoria, where locals endured hundreds of days of lockdown during the worst of the pandemic.

Australia is facing a massive increase in virus cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant. On Friday, the nation reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in the state of Victoria. Although many infected people are not getting as sick as in previous outbreaks, the increase continues to put a huge strain on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It has also disrupted workplaces and supply chains.

“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for all Australians, but we have stood together and saved lives and livelihoods…Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly hope that the outcome of those sacrifices will be protected.” Morrison said. Friday. “This is what the Minister is doing by taking this action today.”

Djokovic’s supporters in Serbia are dismayed by the visa cancellations.

Everyone at the Australian Open, including the players, their support teams and spectators, must be vaccinated. Djokovic is not vaccinated.

His waiver was approved by the Victorian state government and Tennis Australia, apparently allowing him to obtain a visa to travel. But the Australian Border Force refused the waiver and canceled his visa when he landed in the country.

Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel before a judge reversed that decision. That ruling allowed him to move freely around Australia and he has been practicing at Melbourne Park every day.

“It’s not a good situation for anybody,” said Andy Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion and five-time Australian Open runner-up. “It seems like it’s been going on for quite some time now.”

According to Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to withdraw from the tournament before the Day 1 order of play is announced, No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev would take Djokovic’s place in the group.

If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament after Monday’s schedule is released, he would be replaced on the field by what is known as a “lucky loser,” a player who loses in the qualifying tournament but enters the main draw due to the departure of another player before the competition. has begun.

And if Djokovic plays a match, or more, and is then told he can no longer participate in the tournament, his next opponent would simply advance to the next round and there would be no replacement.


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