This morning the Australian Federal Circuit and Family Court in Melbourne ruled that the top-ranked tennis player, Novak Djokovic, has been wrongly detained since his arrival to compete in the Australian Open last week.
Judge Anthony Kelly said that the world No.1 appeared to have provided all the evidence he was asked for on his arrival at the Australian border, and that the order to cancel Djokovic’s visa had been made without providing his legal team with sufficient time to respond, a period that had not expired by the time the order had been issued.
The Serbian tennis star sought entry to Australia to defend his Australian Open title and announced last week that he had been granted an “an exemption permission” to enter Australia.
Djokovic had previously spoken out to say people should not be “forced” to take the Covid-19 vaccine. His Australian trip – and his detention in a hotel while the furore unravelled – has therefore become a flashpoint regarding vaccination and personal freedoms.
Djokovic’s lawyers say he received a positive COVID-19 test in December, and that his Covid recovered status made him eligible for an exemption to Australia’s vaccination rules – an exemption they say was granted by the Australian government and Tennis Australia
The judge ruled that the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa was made by Home Affairs at 7:42 a.m. on Thursday, even though the tennis ace had been given until 8:30 a.m. to respond to the notification that his visa was in danger of being cancelled.
Judge Kelly asked why the Tennis Australia document was not accepted by office of Home Affairs when making the decision on Djokovic’s visa.
“Here, a professor and an eminently qualified physician have produced and provided to the applicant a medical exemption,” Judge Kelly said.
“Further to that, that medical exemption and the basis on which it was given was separately given by a further independent expert specialist panel established by the Victorian state government and that document was in the hands of the delegate.
“The point I am agitated about is what more could this man have done?” he asked.
“If the applicant had had until 8:30 a.m., he could have consulted others and made submissions to the delegate about why his visa should not be cancelled,” Judge Kelly said.
The transcript of the tennis ace’s dealing with Home Affairs has been released – showing the authorities giving Djokovic just 20 minutes to provide them with further information.
Djokovic (interview 6 Jan): So you’re giving me legally 20 minutes to try to provide additional information that I don’t have? At 4 o clock in the morning? https://t.co/jY9JFnToKh pic.twitter.com/MzDUSLiGK2
— Susan Metcalfe (@susanamet) January 10, 2022
The focus now returns to the Australian government with speculation that it will still not allow Djokovic to participate. The battle of wills had escalated over the weekend with the claim of medical exemption on the grounds that Djokovic had tested positive for Covid, and had recovered, in early December – and had been accepted as an exemption by the Australian tennis medical panel – being dismissed.
With the Serbian government along with other political opponents of draconian restrictions taking Djokovic’s side and the Australian government determined not to back down, the issue has taken on much broader dimensions.
It is also being watched with interest in Ireland where there has been a similar pile on against Djokovic as there was against soccer international Callum Robinson when he revealed that he had not been vaccinated prior to an international late last year.