Australian judge expresses concern over Djokovic’s airport interview

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© Reuters. Police officers watch a rally of pro-refugee protesters outside the Park Hotel, where Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic is believed to be being held during his stay, in Melbourne, Australia, January 10, 2022.REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The judge hearing Novak Djokovic’s legal challenge to the Australian government’s decision to revoke the tennis star’s entry visa on Monday raised some questions about how Serbs were treated by border officials on arrival ‘s concerns.

Judge Anthony Kelly said Djokovic appeared to have been granted the necessary medical immunity before travelling to Australia, giving evidence when he arrived at Melbourne Airport on Wednesday night.

“What makes me a little bit emotional is, what else can this guy do?” Kelly said, as Djokovic’s lawyers outlined their case, questioning the federal government’s decision to revoke a player’s visa at the airport.

Djokovic, who has been held in immigration detention since his visa was revoked, argued that the recent COVID-19 infection made him eligible for Australia’s medical exemption, which requires double vaccinations for all tourists.

However, the Australian government has said non-citizens are not entitled to guaranteed entry into Australia, stressing that it reserves the right to detain him again and deport him even if the Serb wins a court case.

The government’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa could jeopardize his chances of winning a record 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open, which begins in Melbourne on January 17.

The exchange between Kelly and Djokovic’s lawyer, Nicholas Wood, also revealed that officials had the world number one turn off his phone between midnight local time and around 7.42am local time, when he decided to cancel his visa. Wood said officials had reneged on an agreement that gave him until 8.30am to speak with Australian tennis tournament organisers and discouraged him from waiting to speak to a lawyer.

Wood said Djokovic had made it clear that he had medical contraindications that would exempt him from the requirement to get the double vaccine, although he was not required, but provided evidence before boarding the flight to Australia and upon arrival. this statement.

Technical issues delaying the start of virtual hearings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court have also intermittently affected planned public livestreaming sessions.

protesters, supporters

Djokovic has not practiced for the Australian Open since Thursday and has been confined to a hotel serving asylum seekers.

A handful of supporters, one of them holding a Serbian flag, gathered outside the hotel on Monday morning, along with several activists protesting the detention of refugees who had been held for months.

Crowds of Djokovic supporters gathered outside the hotel over the weekend, dancing and cheering to traditional music.

French newspaper L’Equipe said in court documents on Dec. 16 that it posted a photo of Djokovic as he was named the Daily Champion, days after he tested positive for the coronavirus. . Other photos posted on social media showed him at an event in Serbia on a date shortly after that test.

It is unclear whether Djokovic was aware of his positive test at the time of the incident shown in the picture.

Djokovic, 34, has won the Australian Open nine times and the drama of his refusal has caused an uproar in the sports world, sparking tensions between Serbia and Australia and becoming a flashpoint against vaccine mandates around the world. .

‘disrespect’

On Sunday, Djokovic’s father held a small protest in front of the Serbian parliament building in Belgrade.

“Are we animals? What are we? We are human. This happens because we’re a small part of the world, but we’re proud. They don’t respect him.”

In his first media interview since the unrest began, Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said his organisation had been talking to federal and state officials for months to ensure players’ safety. Safe passage.

The Czech foreign ministry said Czech player Renata Voracova, who was detained in the same detention facility as Djokovic and had her visa revoked over vaccine immunity issues, was not challenged left the country without her identity.

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