Dhe odyssey of tennis star Novak Djokovic continues. As confirmed by Judge Anthony Kelly on Saturday night, he was taken into custody again in the morning after a brief hearing. He was again taken to the notorious Park Hotel in Melbourne, where Australia has held around 30 asylum seekers, some for several years. Even as the world’s best tennis player returned, people demonstrated for the release of the refugees from the notorious detention center. The police expect hundreds of Djokovic supporters to gather there again in the next few hours.
The Serb’s lawyers had previously submitted their 268-page complaint against Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision. In it they attack him and the Australian government massively. Hawke revoked the 34-year-old’s visa for the second time late Friday afternoon. From Sunday morning (9.30 a.m. local time, 11.30 p.m. on Saturday evening CET) the federal court will hear Djokovic’s lawsuit against the ministerial decision. The first in the tennis world rankings was able to follow the very short hearing on Saturday morning (local time) from the office of his lawyers.
“illogical” and “nonsensical”
Wood argued against the ministerial decision that it was “illogical” and “nonsensical”. Hawke had been brooding over the justification for the renewed visa withdrawal since Monday. Then he argued, among other things, with concerns about “riots” and a growing mood in the country against vaccination. It is therefore “in Australia’s public interest” for Djokovic to fly out.
The fifth continent is washed over by a powerful omicron wave. Although 95 percent of the people in the state of Victoria with its capital Melbourne are vaccinated, 240,000 cases of infection have now been registered. The federal government decided on Saturday, in view of the almost one thousand corona patients in the clinics, to also have two previous quarantine hotels converted into auxiliary hospitals.
The Australian Open will be played in Melbourne from Monday, where Djokovic won the title nine times and now actually wants to defend it. For this he received a special permit for entry, which was not recognized at the border on Thursday last week. The officers behaved unacceptably towards the tennis player, Judge Kelly found. As a result, the Australian government returned his visa on Monday, but at the same time began the ministerial review.
In the meantime, four other members of the international tennis entourage, who had entered the country thanks to a comparable medical exemption that the unvaccinated Djokovic had received, have been expelled from the country and left. Normally travelers entering Australia must be double vaccinated.
Wood’s Djokovic lawyers are now arguing that the Minister’s final expulsion is by no means in the “public interest” – on the contrary: it damages Australia’s reputation in the world. At the same time, she “questions the principles of border control and, of course, the rule of law in Australia in general”. They go very far: “Secondly, this approach would harm Australian economic interests and jeopardize the possibility that Australia can continue to host this prestigious, international sporting event,” they say, referring to the Australian Open.
Hawke’s decision appears to be “politically motivated” just ahead of the elections. “The annulment of Mr Djokovic’s visa and his deportation would clearly run counter to the public interest and, with all due respect, could only serve political interests,” they summarize their view. The tennis millionaire’s lawyers challenged Hawke’s view that Djokovic’s appearance was encouraging people not to get vaccinated or boosted. The government’s lawyers will give their view of the situation by 10 a.m. local time on Saturday evening (12 p.m. CET).
While their protégé was being taken back into custody, the lawyers followed suit: They also pointed out that the minister had no right to claim that the tennis player’s anti-vaccination attitude was well known.
Once again Serbian President Aleksander Vučić sided with the country’s greatest sporting hero on the Australian night and sharply attacked the Australian government: “Why are you bullying him, why are you mistreating him, his family and a nation that is free and proud? Is all this necessary to win elections and please the public?”
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