Novak Djokovic wins appeal against deportation and will be released

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  • Novak Djokovic
    Novak Djokovic
    Serbian tennis player

Watch: Novak Djokovic wins appeal against cancellation of Australian visa

World number one men's tennis player Novak Djokovic has won an appeal against a decision to refuse him a visa in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia ahead of the Australian Open.

Judge Anthony Kelly ruled that Djokovic’s visa cancellation order be “quashed” immediately and the tennis star be released from 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 cancellation."

That would mean mean Djokovic could again face deportation and could still miss the Australian Open, which starts on January 17.

Relatives of Djokovic have claimed the Australian government wants to “capture” and deport him, despite the legal win. 

Djordje Djokovic, his brother, reportedly said: “What we can do is to let this be known all over social media – they want to capture and lock up Novak again.”

He added: “We’re currently consulting with PRs about next steps. He is at the moment with his lawyers in the room they were during the hearing, thinking about options.”

Australian media reports say there is a major police presence at the office of Djokovic’s lawyer, where he had been observing the court hearing. 

Djokovic, 34, had been fighting deportation and the cancellation of his visa in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

The Australian government cancelled his visa shortly after he arrived in Melbourne late Wednesday because officials decided he didn’t meet the criteria for an exemption to an entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated for Covid.

Djokovic, who court documents say is unvaccinated, argued he did not need proof of vaccination because he had evidence that he had been infected with Covid in December.

Australian medical authorities have ruled that a temporary exemption for the vaccination rule can be provided to people who have been infected with Covid within six months.

Djokovic arriving at the Australian border (@cokeefe9)
Djokovic arriving at the Australian border (@cokeefe9)

Judge Kelly noted 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 January 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.

Wood agreed with the judge that Djokovic could not have done more.

Transcripts of Djokovic’s interview with Border Force officials and his own affidavit revealed a “repeated appeal to the officers with which he was dealing that to his understanding, uncontradicted, he had done absolutely everything that he understood was required in order for him to enter Australia,” Wood said.

Djokovic has been under guard in hotel quarantine in Melbourne since Thursday, when his visa was cancelled.

 (AP)
(AP)

But the judge ordered that the world No. 1-ranked tennis player be released from hotel quarantine during his court hearing.

Djokovic’s lawyers submitted 11 grounds for appeal against his visa cancellation. The lawyers described the cancellation as “seriously illogical,” irrational and legally unreasonable.

Lawyers for Home Affairs Minister Karen Andres said in their submission that if the judge ruled in Djokovic’s favor, officials might cancel his visa a second time.

Under Australia’s immigration law, the minister has exceptional powers and discretion to cancel visas for whatever reason. 

The judge noted that if the minister made that decision, Djokovic could be banned for three years from Australia.

The virtual hearing crashed several times because of an overwhelming number of people from around the world trying to watch the proceedings

Djokovic is a nine-time Australian Open champion. He has 20 Grand Slam singles titles, a men’s record he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Watch: Australian lawyer believes Novak Djokovic's visa woes are 'over'

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