MELBOURNE, Australia – Novak Djokovic reportedly returned to immigration detention on Saturday after his legal challenge to avoid deportation from Australia due to his immunization for COVID-19 was moved to a higher court.
A federal court hearing is set for Sunday, a day before the No. 1 seed and nine-time Australian Open champion begins defending his title in the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year.
Police closed a lane behind the building where Djokovic’s lawyers are located and two vehicles exited the building at noon noon local time on Saturday. In television footage, Djokovic could be seen wearing a face mask in the back of a vehicle near an immigration detention hotel.
The Australian Associated Press reported that Djokovic had returned to custody. He spent four nights locked in a hotel near central Melbourne before being released last Monday when he won a court challenge for procedural reasons against his first visa cancellation.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday blocked the visa of the 34-year-old Serb, which was initially revoked when he landed at a Melbourne airport on 5 January.
Deportation from Australia could lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, although this may be lifted, depending on the circumstances.
Djokovic has admitted that his travel statement was incorrect because it did not indicate that he had been to many countries during the two weeks before his arrival in Australia.
But inaccurate travel information is not why Hawke decided that okokovi.’S ousting was in the public interest.
His lawyers filed documents in court on Saturday that revealed that Hawke had stated that “Djokovic is perceived by some as a talisman of an anti-vaccination sentiment community.”
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 be a threat to the health and “good order” of the Australian public. His presence “could be counterproductive to attempts to vaccinate 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 to the Australian Open.
The minister cited comments Djokovic made in April 2020, before a COVID-19 vaccine was made available, that he was “against vaccination”.
Djokovic had “previously stated that he would not want to be forced by anyone to get a vaccine” to compete in the tournament.
The evidence “makes it clear that he has publicly expressed a feeling against vaccination,” the minister wrote in his reasons for revoking Djokovic’s visa.
Djokovic’s lawyers argue that the minister had not mentioned any evidence that Djokovic’s presence in Australia could “nurture sentiment against vaccination”.
Djokovic will be allowed to leave the hotel on Sunday to visit his lawyers’ offices for the video court hearing.
On Saturday, Judge David O’Callaghan suggested that the case be heard in a full court on Sunday, not a single judge. A full bench is three or five judges.
A full bench would mean that any decision would be less likely to be appealed. The only way of appeal would be the Supreme Court and there would be no guarantee that that court would even agree to consider such an appeal.
Djokovic’s lawyer, Paul Holdenson, chose a full bench, while Hawke’s lawyer, Stephen Lloyd, preferred a single judge.
Legal observers suspect Lloyd wants to keep open the option of another Federal Court appeal, because he thinks the minister can raise a stronger issue without rushing to make a decision ahead of Monday.
Chief Justice James Allsop will decide how many judges will hear the case.
The case was filed Saturday by the Federal District and Family Court in the Federal Court. But the number of judges who will hear the case starting at 9:30 a.m. local time (5:30 p.m. ET) on Sunday has not yet been determined.
Djokovic has won the last three Australian Open, part of his overall Grand Slam group of 20 championships. He equals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for more than one man in history.
In a social media post Wednesday that made up his broadest public comments so far 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 that he continued with an interview and a photo session with a French newspaper in Serbia, despite knowing that he had tested positive for COVID-19 two days earlier. Djokovic has tried to use what he says was a positive test taken on December 16th to justify a medical exemption that would allow him to bypass the vaccine claim on the grounds that he already had COVID-19.
On the revocation of Djokovic’s visa, Hawke said that the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, especially in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Morrison himself welcomed Djokovic’s pending ouster. The episode has touched a nerve in Australia, and especially in the state of Victoria, where locals spent hundreds of days blocking during the worst period of the pandemic.
Australia is facing a massive increase in cases of the virus transmitted 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 are not getting as sick as in previous outbreaks, the increase is still putting a heavy burden on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It has also disrupted jobs and supply chains.
“This pandemic has been extremely difficult for any Australian, but we have stood together and saved lives and livelihoods. … Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be defended, “Morrison said. Friday. “This is what the minister is doing by taking this action today.
Djokovic’s supporters in Serbia are shocked 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 vaccinated.
His exemption was approved by the state government of Victoria and Tennis Australia, presumably allowing him to obtain a travel visa. But the Australian Border Forces refused the exemption and canceled his visa when he landed in the country.
Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel before a judge overturned that ruling. This decision allowed him to move freely around Australia and he has practiced every day in Melbourne Park.
“It’s not a good situation for anyone,” said Andy Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion and five-time runner-up at the Australian Open. “It seems to have been dragging on for a long time now.”
Under Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to withdraw from the tournament before the order of the game for the first day is announced, number 5 Andrey Rublev will be moved to Djokovic’s place in brackets.
If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament following Monday’s broadcast, he will be replaced on the pitch by what is known as the “lucky loser” – a player who loses the qualifying tournament but enters the main draw due to the removal of a player before. the competition has started.
And if Djokovic plays in a match – or more – and then is told he can no longer participate in the tournament, his next opponent will simply move on to the next round and there will be no replacement.
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