Confusion after reports Djokovic ‘detained again’ in Australia
Unconfirmed reports have claimed Novak Djokovic was detained for a second time in Australia despite a judge ruling that he be released, although conflicting information states the authorities are still considering their options.
A judge at a Melbourne Federal Circuit Court ruled on Monday that the Australian authorities had behaved "unreasonably" when they canceled Djokovic's visa last week as the world number one attempted to enter the country with a Covid vaccine medical exemption.
Djokovic, 34, was ordered to be released within 30 minutes of Monday's ruling, but more than two hours later he was still said to be at the offices of a Melbourne law company where he had been allowed to watch the day's legal proceedings.
Ominously for Djokovic, government barrister Christopher Tan had warned during the case that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke could step in to overule the judge's decision and detain Djokovic again with a view to deporting him.
Unconfirmed reports in Serbia and elsewhere, some of which cited Djokovic's father Srdjan, claimed that the Australian authorities had "arrested" Djokovic again.
Serbian media has reported Novak Djokovic has been re-arrested in Australia, according to his fatherFormer British Men's Number 1 Andrew Castle tells #BBCBreakfast it appears the government there may take the 'nuclear option' to deport the World Number 1https://t.co/vZ0UZKVV2gpic.twitter.com/dIZLw8hy9k— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) January 10, 2022
Significant police presence at the office of Djokovic's lawyers on Collins St, Melbourne. White vans heading into underground car park. Reports that Australian federal police heading in to arrest him. Immigration minister has four hours in which to re-cancel his visa.— Oliver Brown (@oliverbrown_tel) January 10, 2022
However, adding to the confusion surrounding the case, Australian media cited government sources as asserting that the step had not been taken and that Immigration Minister Hawke was still weighing up his options.
Meanwhile, a large police presence was reported outside the downtown Melbourne offices where Djokovic was said to be present.
Djokovic supporters who had gathered to celebrate the court decision on Monday were reported as being wary at getting too carried away, should the star end up back in government custody.
"I don’t want to celebrate too soon," one supporter, Yelelna Stancovic, told the BBC.
The uncertainty surrounding Djokovic's fate following the court ruling is symptomatic of a case which has been shrouded in claim and counter-claim, and which has drawn intense international scrutiny.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused Australian officials, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, of conducting a "political witch hunt" against the tennis star.
Morrison backed the actions of the Australian Border Force in detaining Djokovic, vowing that "rules are rules" and that the nine-time Melbourne champion would not be given preferential treatment.
Djokovic's supporters have decried his treatment and detention at an infamous immigration center, pointing out that the star had been cleared by both Tennis Australia and the Victoria state to appear at the tournament.
Djokovic earned a medical exemption after recovering from a Covid infection in December, although federal Australian rules deemed that insufficient grounds to enter the country, considering that Djokovic is unvaccinated.
Monday's court defeat was an embarrassing blow for them, although it was immediately suggested that Immigration Minister Hawke could intervene.
Djokovic fans will now await developments nervously as it remains to be seen whether the 20-time Grand Slam winner is free to line up at the Australian Open, which begins at Melbourne Park in one week's time and runs until January 30.