Tennis

Australian Judge frees Novak Djokovic from detention, reinstates his visa

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic won against the Australian government. Photo/Forbes

World No.1 Novak Djokovic can now heave a sigh of relief after Judge Anthony Keller ordered his immediate release from detention in Australia and overturned his visa cancellation by the Australian government.

The Judge ordered the Australian government to pay the Serbian tennis player costs he incurred while in detention.

Djokovic finally flew to Melbourne, Australia in readiness for the Australian Open Grand Slam 2022.  He had hopes of defending his title but it was a shock following the revocation of his visa and detention on Thursday last week.

Novak Djokovic Trial After Detention in Australia

The government admitted in court that Djokovic was not given enough time to respond after being notified that his visa would be cancelled.

Last Thursday,  he was told he had until 08:30 local time to respond to the visa cancellation under section 116 of the Australian Migration Act. But the Border Force made the final judgment just before 07:40.

Judge Kelly stated Djokovic Should have been given extra time if officials had kept to the original time frame for Djokovic’s visa application submission.

The Judge insisted that they all play by the same rules.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic was denied entry into Australia over visa mix up. Photos/Akmi

“We all play by the same rules,” BBC quotes Judge Kelly. “Stated in other terms: those rules were not observed.”

Following delays due to technical difficulties with the live webcast of proceedings, the trial resumed on Monday morning.

Djokovic’s attorneys in defence, claimed that the 20-time Grand Slam champion entered the country with the idea that his exemption from restrictions necessitating full vaccination against Covid-19 was legal.

After a recent coronavirus infection, Nick Wood informed the court that the player had been granted an exemption by two independent medical boards. And that he had presented all of the necessary medical proof to the officials.

Wood, a lead attorney in Djokovic’s trial told the court that Djokovic did everything asked of him by Australian Open officials. He engaged with them prior to flying to Melbourne last week on Tuesday.

After hearing Wood’s case, Judge Kelly seemed to concur with him and expressed his “agitation” to the government’s counsel.

He posed, “What more could this man have done?”

What Led to Novak Djokovic Detention in Australia?

Djokovic on Tuesday last week announced his departure from Australia under an “exemption authorization’ for the Australian Open.

“Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet. I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break & today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!”

However, the worst happened after landing in Melbourne and encountering the Australian Border Force agents. Djokovic was denied entry into Australia after a visa application mix-up and was subjected to deportation.

The Serbian spent hours at the airport before border officials informed him that his visa went contrary to the entry rules. It is then that they informed him that he would be deported on the next outbound flight. He was then shuttled to a government-operated detention hotel awaiting his deportation.

It is then that his legal team moved to court and sought an injunction. Wood told the court that Australian Border Force agents treated Djokovic unjustly.

WHY WAS NOVAK DJOKOVIC ALLOWED IN AUSTRALIAN OPEN WITHOUT BEING VACCINATED?

The Australian Open in a statement said that Djokovic underwent a rigorous evaluation procedure. The evaluation was overseen by two distinct panels of an independent panel of medical experts.

This is what resulted in Djokovic being given a medical exemption. Australian Open director Tiley in December announced that an independent panel would determine which players will play in Melbourne.

However, Christopher Tran, the government attorney during the trial said that Djokovic does not merit a Covid-19 exemption. Tran cited that Djokovic tested positive for coronavirus twice – in June 2020 and in December 2021.

The lawyer raise doubts on Djokovic’s suitability for an exemption saying that he appeared at a public event without a face mask yet he had just tested positive a few days before.

What Next for Novak Djokovic in Australian Open?

Even with the detention lifted, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke could still cancel his visa on new grounds.

Acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford, on the other hand, said: “The federal government has requested if we will assist Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia.

“We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.”

Pulford who had earlier said there would be no special treatment for Djokovic added that visa approval matters a lot for the federal government.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic detention Australia was struck out by the court. Photo/Euronews

The Minister added the Covid-19 exemption extended to Djokovic was a matter for doctors and not the federal government.

On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned Djokovic of flying back home immediately if his evidence for a Covid-19 vaccination exemption to play at the Australian Open is not satisfactory.

In a statement, PM Morrison said that any individual seeking to enter Australia must comply with all border requirements.

Morrison while maintaining there would be no special treatment for Djokovic noted that he must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. In addition, he must satisfactorily show that he can access the same travel arrangements, as fully vaccinated travellers.

The Australian PM said all they will do is wait for the Serbian’s presentation and scrutinize his evidence.

Djokovic is set to defend his Australian Open title that he won in 2021. But it remains to be seen if he will play from January 17 when the tournament begins.

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