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January 27, 2022
Novak Djokovic has won an appeal to stay in Australia, with a judge freeing him from hotel detention, but the government may still choose to deport him.
The tennis star had been ordered to stay in the Melbourne hotel after being blocked by border officials last week ahead of the Australian Open. However, Djokovic’s father told Sky News this morning that his son had been “arrested” by the Australian government, this claim that has not yet been verified.
Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly also ordered the government on Monday to release Djokovic from Melbourne hotel quarantine within 30 minutes of his decision.
Government lawyer Christopher Tran told the judge after the ruling that the minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke, “will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancelation.” This leaves open the possibility that Djokovic could again face deportation and could miss the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 17.
Djokovic, whose court documents say he is unvaccinated, argued he did not need proof of vaccination because he had evidence that he had been infected with the coronavirus last month.
Australian medical authorities have ruled that a temporary exemption for the vaccination rule can be provided to people who have been infected with COVID-19 within six months.
Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly noted that Djokovic had provided officials at Melbourne’s airport with a medical exemption given him by Tennis Australia, which is organizing the tournament that starts on Jan. 17, and two medical panels. “The point I’m somewhat agitated about is what more could this man have done?” Kelly asked Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood.
A large crowd of supporters, many dressed in Serbia’s colours and waving the flag of Djokovic’s home country, erupted in celebration outside the court as the decision became known on Monday afternoon.
There had been fans stationed outside Melbourne’s Park Hotel for days – many from the local Serbian community, showing their support for their national hero with banners and placards.
Djokovic’s visa was originally cancelled because he arrived in the country on a medical exemption which stated he had previously had Covid in the last six months, which the federal government said was not a valid reason.
Djokovic’s legal team successfully overturned the cancellation in a hearing plagued by technical issues, with live streams collapsing under the pressure of tens of thousands of people trying to watch.
Andy Murray declared the whole episode “really bad” for tennis. Murray, who has lost four Open finals to Djokovic, was left quite dismayed by the events of the past five days. “I think everyone is shocked by it to be honest,” the former world No.1 told reporters.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: POLITICO