World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is set to be detained by Border Force officers this morning after last night’s hastily organised court hearing.
Novak Djokovic has sought and obtained an urgent injunction to prevent the government from deporting him following Friday’s decision by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel his visa.
During a hastily scheduled late-night hearing in the Federal Circuit Court on Friday, Judge Anthony Kelly ordered that the federal government not take any steps to remove Djokovic from Australia before the tennis star’s appeal is resolved.
Djokovic also cannot be detained until after he attends an interview with federal officials at 8am on Saturday morning.
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Following that meeting, Djokovic will be allowed to visit the offices of his lawyers to discuss his case, escorted by two Border Force officials, before being taken into detention.
And he can return to those offices on Sunday, when a final hearing on the matter is expected to take place.
Judge Kelly also said the case would be transferred to the Federal Court of Australia, which has since scheduled a hearing before Justice David O’Callaghan at 10:15am AEDT.
Bizarre reason for visa cancellation
A report from The Age has claimed Immigration Minister Alex Hawke decided to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa because the tennis star’s presence in Australia increases anti-vax sentiment and disregard for Covid-19 rules.
“Given Mr Djokovic’s high-profile status and position as a role model in the sporting and broader community, his ongoing presence in Australia may foster similar disregard for the precautionary requirements following receipt of a positive Covid-19 test in Australia,” Mr Hawke wrote, according to the report.
“In particular, his behaviour may encourage or influence others to emulate his prior conduct and fail to comply with appropriate health measures following a positive Covid-19 test, which itself could lead to the transmission of the disease and serious risk to their health and others.”
Djokovic this week admitted he had gone out in public and attended a media interview with the French publication L’Equipe after testing positive for Covid in Serbia. Mr Hawke cites that conduct to bolster his argument.
The argument Border Force officials used to rescind Djokovic’s visa the first time – that his recent Covid infection in mid-December was insufficient to earn him an exemption to the requirement that incoming travellers be vaccinated against Covid – has been abandoned.
On Friday evening, Nick Wood SC told the Federal Circuit and Family Court that government officials’ fears were unfounded, claiming it would be wrong to “remove a man of good standing” from Australia.
Djokovic doctor slams Australia
The doctor widely credited with helping Novak Djokovic to reach the pinnacle of tennis has criticised Australia for twice cancelling the Serbian star’s visa and detaining him over Covid technicalities, saying he is “super healthy”.
“It’s absurd that somebody who has optimal health is a threat to the health of the public,” Dr Igor Cetojevic, a Bosnian-born Serb who lives in Cyprus, told AFP.
Djokovic, an avowed Covid-19 vaccine sceptic, is the Australian Open’s top seed and had been practising on the Melbourne Park courts just hours before Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s bombshell decision was announced.
Cetojevic, who spent a year on tour with Djokovic until 2011, when he won Wimbledon for the first time and became world number one, said the unvaccinated Serb was being treated unfairly.
“How can a super healthy guy be a threat for the Australian Open,” the 60-year-old doctor said, laughing out loud.
“It’s all politics, it starts with politics, not anything else.”
Djokovic ‘mistreated’ by Australia
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused Australia of “mistreating” Novak Djokovic after authorities revoked his visa for a second time.
“Why are you mistreating him, why are you taking it out not only on him but also on his family and the whole nation,” Mr Vucic wrote on social media.
“If you wanted to ban Novak Djokovic from winning the 10th trophy in Melbourne why didn’t you return him immediately, why didn’t you tell him ‘it is impossible to obtain a visa’?
“Novak, we stand by you!”
‘Not a good situation’: Murray finally snaps
Former world number one Andy Murray reached his first final since 2019 on Friday in a massive boost to his confidence ahead of the Australian Open.
The 34-year-old three-time major winner, who underwent career-saving hip surgery, has now strung together four wins in a row for the first time since being crowned champion at Antwerp nearly three years ago.
But the Scot was left frustrated by a number of questions in his post-match press conference on the topic of rival Novak Djokovic and the government’s decision to cancel his visa.
Murray – who twice addressed the Djokovic saga in press conferences this week – was left headbutting his microphone and could hardly speak through a series of deep sighs as he again was asked about the latest updates.
Murray said: “It’s not a good situation. I’m not gonna sit here and start kicking Novak whilst he’s down. I said it the other day, it’s not a good situation for anyone. It’s unfortunate that it’s ended up in this sort of situation.”
“Just want it obviously to get resolved, I think it would be good for everyone if that was the case. It just seems like it’s dragged on for quite a long time now,” Murray added.
“Not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak. And obviously a lot of people have criticised the government here as well. So it’s not been good.”
PM backs Hawke’s decision
Prime Minister Scott Morrison shared a statement on Friday evening: “I note the Minister for Immigration’s decision in relation to Mr Novak Djokovic’s visa.
“I understand that following careful consideration, action has been taken by the Minister to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa held on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods.
“Together we have achieved one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates, in the world.
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.
“This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today.
“Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, prior to Covid and now during the pandemic.
“Due to the expected ongoing legal proceedings, I will be not be providing any further comment.”
– with AFP, Andrew McMurtry and Sam Clench