An Australian Circuit Court Monday ruled in favor of reinstating tennis' top player Novak Djokovic his visa, which was canceled by immigration officials on the grounds that he was not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Judge Anthony Kelly also ordered the Australian government to release Djokovic from a Melbourne hotel where he had been detained upon arrival.
Despite this judicial victory, it is yet unknown whether the Serbian star will want to play the first Grand Slam tournament of the year or even if the Government would abide by the ruling. Government lawyer Christopher Tran reminded Kelly that the minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke, “will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancelation.”
Djokovic had had his visa canceled after landing at Melbourne last Wednesday for not being vaccinated. The 34-year-old, 20-time grand slam champion won his appeal on Monday against deportation from Australia, after border officials last week said his medical exemption was not valid and he was detained at Melbourne airport.
Djokovic has spent four nights in a detention hotel after claiming he had been exempted from a COVID-19 vaccine because he had already tested positive for the disease and under such conditions it could be counterproductive to be injected, which had been endorsed by two panels of Australian medical authorities.
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.
However, 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. They said the vaccination requirement could only be deferred for arriving travelers who have had a COVID-19 infection if their illness was acute. “There is no suggestion that the applicant (Djokovic) had ‘acute major medical illness’ in December” when he tested positive, the written submission said.
While in detention, Djokovic has become a world hero for many as he who stood up for individual liberties, while fellow tennis legend Rafa Nadal said he was just paying the consequences of his decisions and that he could have spared himself all that trouble if he had only agreed to follow the rules and get vaccinated.
Australian tennis legend Rod Laver said Djokovic would not be welcome by most locals if he was spared the mandates the rest of the people had to go through.
And Paul McNamee, another Australian tennis veteran, had written on Twitter that Novak Djokovic, perhaps the foremost athlete on the planet, is here to defend his title. He was approved to fly here by Tennis Australia, the Vic Govt & the Prime Minister himself. He followed our rules. If deported, our reputation as a great sporting nation may never be the same.
That was before Monday's ruling. Then he added: Novak Djokovic has had his day in court, with all the evidence presented, and comprehensively won … let’s respect the court’s decision and move to the other court where the sport is played.
Apart from Djokovic, there were other foreign players wishing to take part in the Australian Open held at the same detention hotel in Melbourne while their cases were sorted out.
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