Novak Djokovic was again detained in Australia on Saturday after authorities tore his visa a second time and declared the unvaccinated tennis superstar a threat to the public.
Court documents show that the 34-year-old Serb is currently being held at an address in Melbourne, while his appeal against deportation is being heard.
Just two days before the Australian Open kicks off, the world number one is once again focused on courts rather than center court in the latest twist in a high-profile row over his Covid-19 vaccine status.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke now claims that Djokovic’s continued presence in the country could “promote anti-vaccine sentiment” and even lead to an “increase in civil unrest”.
Djokovic was subpoenaed to appear before immigration officials in Melbourne ahead of Federal Court emergency hearings on Saturday and Sunday.
He was allowed to follow the legal proceedings from an address – presumably his law offices – under the guard of two Australian Border Patrol officers.
This is Australia’s Conservative government’s second attempt to expel Djokovic, one of the world’s most high-profile Covid-19 vaccine skeptics.
The 34-year-old Serb used a medical exemption to enter Australia earlier this month in hopes of battling for a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Open.
Amid public outcry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government revoked Djokovic’s visa on arrival.
Many Australians – who have faced lengthy lockdowns and border restrictions – believe Djokovic used the system to evade vaccine entry requirements.
But the government was humiliated when a judge restored Djokovic’s visa and allowed him to stay in the country.
This time, the government has invoked exceptional — and difficult to challenge — executive powers to declare him a threat to public health and safety.
The government says Djokovic’s presence poses a threat to public health and public order, especially as Australia faces a tidal wave of Omicron infections.
His continued presence in the country “could pose a health risk to the Australian community” by reinforcing anti-vaccination sentiment and discouraging people from getting boosters, immigration minister Hawke argued, according to a court released on Saturday.
Djokovic’s lawyers say the government has “provided no evidence” to back up their claims.
The minister admitted that Djokovic faces a “negligible” risk of infecting Australians, but argued his past “disregard” of Covid-19 regulations could pose a risk to public health and encourage people to ignore pandemic rules.
– ‘Health and good order’ –
The tennis star contracted Covid-19 in mid-December and, according to his own account, failed to isolate despite knowing he was positive.
Public records show that he attended a postage stamp unveiling, attended a youth tennis event and gave a media interview around the time he was tested and his infection was confirmed.
In a statement, Hawke said the government was “determined to protect Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic”, citing “health and good order” for the decision to re-apply Djokovic’s visa. Pull.
The minister said that “it was in the public interest to do so”.
The government has agreed not to expel Djokovic until the hearing is over, attorney Stephen Lloyd told an emergency federal court hearing on Friday.
Djokovic is the leader of the Australian Open and nine-time winner of the tournament. He had been practicing for just hours before Hawke’s decision was announced.
It is unclear whether Djokovic will choose to stay and fight the matter if he believes he is unable to compete in the Australian Open.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused Australia on Friday of “abusing” the country’s biggest star and a national hero.
“If you wanted to ban Novak Djokovic from winning the 10th trophy in Melbourne, why didn’t you return it immediately, why didn’t you tell him it’s impossible to get a visa?” said Vucic on Instagram.
“Novak, we’re with you!”
– ‘In the public interest’ –
Prime Minister Morrison supported the decision, saying: “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic and they rightly expect the outcome of those sacrifices to be protected.”
In effect, the visa cancellation means that Djokovic will not be able to obtain a new Australian visa for three years, except in exceptional circumstances, during which time he will be banned from one of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
He is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 Grand Slam titles each.
Former world number one Andy Murray, who will play at the Open, said Friday he hoped Djokovic’s status would be clarified.
“It just seems like it’s been going on for quite a while and (it’s) not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak,” Murray said.
Other players, including world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas, have criticized Djokovic.
“He certainly played by his own rules,” Tsitsipas told Indian broadcaster WION on Thursday.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)