Djokovic to be detained again as lawyers set out ‘anti-vaxxers’ argument
Layers for Novak Djokovic have accused the government of taking a hardline stance on their client's immigration status for fear of showing weakness against anti-vaccination sentiment as the legal squabble escalates.
Djokovic's chances of an eleventh-hour reprieve ahead of next week's start of the Australian Open appear remote following a late-night federal circuit court hearing on Friday to discuss an appeal against the decision by Australia's Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to revoke the Serb's visa for the second time in as many weeks.
Judge Anthony Kelly, who presided over the initial overturning of Djokovic's canceled visa, has referred the matter to a new federal court and judge for a hearing planned for Sunday.
Djokovic will not be in detention on Friday night, but will be after he reports for an interview with immigration officials at 8am local time on Saturday morning.
The tennis star will be afforded the opportunity to consult with his legal team during a visit to their offices on Saturday and again for the expected hearing on Sunday, but will be in detention on Saturday night.
Judge Kelly did, however, bow to a request from Djokovic's lawyers to amend the address where he must report for detention on Saturday to avoid creating what was described as a potential "media circus".
Djokovic's lawyers have argued that the decision to deport the unvaccinated Djokovic was not done on the basis of him being a risk to public health, but rather to strike a blow to the anti-vaccination community many see as being firmly in the government's crosshairs.
Hawke's determination, the specific details of which have not yet been published, was "patently irrational" argued Djokovic's lawyer Nicholas Wood, who also requested that the matter be heard again on Sunday to allow for Djokovic to play in the Australian Open early next week, should his latest appeal be successful.
"We are very concerned about time," said Wood.
OMG Djokovic's lawyers have revealed the minister's reasons is that Djokovic could "excite anti-vax sentiment".Is it possible the Australian govt has stuffed it up again?!— Paul Karp (@Paul_Karp) January 14, 2022
Djokovic was drawn to play fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of the tournament.
This weekend's hearing will also likely address the possibility of the 20-time Grand Slam winner being barred from entering the country for a further three years – a standard penalty in the event of a foreign national having a visa revoked.
The legal fight comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is facing re-election, adopted the hardline stance so as to respect the "sacrifices" made by Australian's throughout strict Covid-19 restrictions.
"Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected," he announced.
"I note the Minister for Immigration's decision in relation to Mr. Novak Djokovic's visa.
"I understand that following careful consideration, action has been taken by the Minister to cancel Mr. Djokovic's visa held on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.
"This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods."
But as Djokovic faces a battle on a different type of court than he accustomed to, he has been cautioned that he faces an uphill struggle in overturning a decision personally made by the country's immigration minister, particularly after it was declared that the decision was made in the "public interest".
Djokovic had been hoping to win what would be a fourth consecutive Australian Open title and a record 21st Grand Slam.