Djokovic wins court battle against deportation

(Update 2: Adds Djokovic statement in grafs 3,4,5, family press conference in graf 6)

Melbourne, Australia, Jan 10 (EFE).- Novak Djokovic on Monday won his court battle against deportation from Australia and is, for now, free to defend his title at the Australian Open.

The world number one tennis player thanked his supporters in a social media post that included photographs of him visiting the Australian Open venue.

“I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete at the Australian Open.

“I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans,” he said.

“For now I cannot say more but THANK YOU all for standing with me through all this and encouraging me to stay strong.”

Speaking at a press conference from his native Belgrade, members of the Djokovic family claimed the tennis star had endured “torture” and “harassment” during the ordeal.

Earlier on Monday, Judge Anthony Kelly of Melbourne’s Federal Circuit Court ordered the Australian government to release Djokovic from immigration detention, return his passport and personal effects, and pay his legal costs.

The government had acknowledged it hadn’t given Djokovic enough time to consult with lawyers and others in order to respond fully to the cancellation of his visa shortly after his arrival to the country last week.

However, Commonwealth government barrister Christopher Tran advised that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke will consider using his personal power to deport Djokovic.

Judge Kelly expressed concern over this potential outcome as it would mean Djokovic would not be able to return for three years.

The court was hearing the tennis player’s appeal of the Australian authorities’ decision to cancel his visa after he arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday night with a medical exemption to play at the Australian Open without being vaccinated. The Australian Border Force said he did not meet entry requirements.

Djokovic’s lawyers argued that a recent Covid-19 infection qualified the tennis star for the exemption from a requirement for travelers entering the country to be fully vaccinated.

In the morning session, Djokovic’s lawyer Nicholas Wood said that the Serbian athlete “had done absolutely everything that he understood was required to enter Australia.”

“He’s made the declaration, provided the evidence even though it was not required, and then he received [notice] from the Department of Home Affairs … saying the application has been assessed and meets the required for quarantine-free travel,” Wood said.

However, the federal government argued that there was no guarantee of entry.

Judge Kelly said: “a professor and an eminently qualified physician have produced and provided to the applicant a medical exemption.”

“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.

“And the point I’m somewhat agitated about is, was what more could this man have done?” Judge Kelly asked.

The tennis player’s lawyers recounted in detail the eight hours that Djokovic spent at Melbourne airport after his arrival from Dubai, during which he was practically incommunicado.

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