Novak Djokovic’s appeal of canceled visa moves to higher court

MELBOURNE, Australia – Novak Djokovic was reported to be back in immigration custody on Saturday after his legal challenge to prevent him from being deported from Australia for non-vaccination before COVID-19 was transferred to a higher court.

A Federal Court hearing is scheduled for Sunday, a day before the No. 1 men and nine-time Australian Open champion would begin his title defense at the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year.

Police have closed a lane behind the building where Djokovic’s lawyers are based and two cars left the building on Saturday at around noon local time. On television images, Djokovic could be seen wearing a face mask in the back of a car at an immigration immigration hotel.

The Australian Associated Press reports that Djokovic was in detention again. He spent four nights in a hotel near central Melbourne before being released last Monday when he won a court challenge on procedural grounds against his first visa cancellation.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday blocked the 34-year-old Serb’s visa, which was originally revoked when he landed at a Melbourne airport on January 5.

Deportation from Australia could lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, though this could be rejected depending on the circumstances.

Djokovic admitted that his travel statement was incorrect because it did not indicate that he had been to multiple countries in the two weeks prior to his arrival in Australia.

But the wrong travel information is not why Hawke decided that deporting Djokovic was in the public interest.

His lawyers submitted documents to the court on Saturday revealing that Hawke had stated that “Djokovic is perceived by some as a talisman of a community of anti-vaccination sentiment.”

Australia is one of the most vaccinated populations in the world, with 89% of people aged 16 and over fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

But the minister said Djokovic’s presence in Australia could pose a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian public. His presence “could be counterproductive to vaccination efforts by others in Australia,” the minister said.

The Department of Health advised that Djokovic had a “low” risk of transmitting COVID-19 and a “very low” risk of transmitting the disease at the Australian Open.

The minister quoted remarks made by Djokovic in April 2020, before a COVID-19 vaccine was available, that he was “against vaccination.”

Djokovic had “previously indicated that he would not be forced by anyone to take a fax” in order to compete in tournaments.

The evidence “makes it clear that he has expressed anti-vaccination sentiment,” the minister wrote in his reasons for canceling Djokovic’s visa.

Djokovic’s lawyers claim that the minister had not adduced any evidence that Djokovic’s presence in Australia could “promote anti-vaccination sentiment”.

Djokovic will be allowed out of hotel custody on Sunday to visit his law firm for the video court hearing.

On Saturday, Justice David O’Callaghan suggested that a full bench instead of one judge heard the case on Sunday. A full bank is three or five judges.

A full bank would mean that any judgment would be less likely to be appealed. The sole court would be the Supreme Court and there would be no guarantee that that court itself would agree to hear such an appeal.

Djokovic’s attorney Paul Holdenson opted for a full bench, while Hawke’s attorney Stephen Lloyd preferred one judge.

Legal observers suspect Lloyd wants to keep the option of another appeal to the Federal Court open because he thinks the minister can build a stronger case without the urgency to reach a verdict by Monday.

Chief Justice James Allsop will decide how many judges will hear the case.

The case on Saturday was raised from the Federal Circuit and Family Court to the Federal Court. But the number of judges the case will hear from 9:30 a.m. local time (5:30 p.m. ET) on Sunday has yet to be determined.

Djokovic has won the past three Australian Opens, part of his overall Grand Slam win of 20 championships. He is for the most part bound to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer by a man in history.

In a post on social media Wednesday that still contained his most extensive public comments about the episode, Djokovic blamed his agent for checking the wrong box on the form, calling it “a human error and certainly unintentional.”

In the same post, Djokovic said he continued with an interview and a photoshoot with a French newspaper in Serbia despite knowing that he had tested positive for COVID-19 two days earlier. Djokovic tried to use what he says was a positive test taken on December 16 to justify a medical exemption that would allow him to break the vaccine claim on the grounds that he already had COVID-19.

In canceling Djokovic’s visa, Hawke said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government was “strongly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Morrison himself welcomed Djokovic’s pending deportation. The episode has hit a nerve in Australia, and especially in the state of Victoria, where locals went through hundreds of days of lockdowns in the worst of the pandemic.

Australia stands for a massive increase in virus cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant. On Friday, the nation reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in the state of Victoria. Although many infected people do not become as ill as they did in previous outbreaks, the increase still puts heavy pressure on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It has also disrupted jobs and supply chains.

“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but together we have captured and saved lives and livelihoods. … Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the outcome of those sacrifices to be protected,” he said. said Morrison Freed. “This is what the minister is doing when taking this action today.”

Djokovic’s supporters in Serbia are upset by the cancellation of visas.

Everyone at the Australian Open – including players, their support teams and spectators – is required to be vaccinated. Djokovic is not inside.

His exemption was approved by the Victoria State Government and Tennis Australia, apparently allowing him to obtain a visa to travel. But the Australian Border Force refused the exemption and canceled his visa when he landed in the country.

Djokovic spent four nights in a hotel for immigration custody before a judge overturned that decision. That ruling left him free around Australia and he practiced daily in Melbourne Park.

“It’s not a good situation for anyone,” said Andy Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion and five times second at the Australian Open. “It looks like it’s been sleeping for a while now.”

According to Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to withdraw from the tournament before the order of play for Day 1 is announced, No. 5 Andrey Rublev would come to Djokovic’s place in the bracket.

If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament after Monday’s schedule is released, he would be replaced on the pitch by what is known as a “lucky loser” – a player who loses in the qualifying tournament but is relegated due to leaving another player before league starts.

And if Djokovic plays in a match – or more – and is then told he can no longer participate in the tournament, then his next opponent would simply advance to the next round and there would be no substitute.

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