Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has revoked Djokovic’s visa for a second time amid public outcry over breaches of COVID rules.

Novak Djokovic has returned to custody in Australia after authorities broke his visa for a second time and declared the unvaccinated tennis superstar a threat to the public.

The world’s top tennis player handed over to officials in Melbourne on Saturday around 08:00 local time (Friday 21:00 GMT) for an interview following a court order issued on Friday night.

Australian Border Patrol (ABF) officers escorted the 34-year-old player to his lawyer’s offices for the online hearing in Federal Court at 10:15 a.m. local time on Saturday (23:15 GMT on Friday).

His case is now moving to an appeals court and a trial is scheduled for Sunday.

Just two days before the start of the Australian Open, the world number one is once again fighting detention and deportation – the latest twist in a high-profile row over its COVID-19 vaccine status.

This is the second attempt by the Australian government to deport Djokovic, one of the world’s most high-profile COVID-19 vaccine skeptics.

The 34-year-old Serb used a medical release earlier this month to enter Australia, hoping to claim a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Open.

Amid public outcry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government withdrew Djokovic’s visa on arrival.

‘Play the system’

Many Australians – who have experienced prolonged closures and border restrictions – believe Djokovic played the system to evade vaccine access requirements.

But the government was humiliated when a judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa and allowed him to remain in the land.

This time, the government called on exceptional – and difficult to challenge – executives to declare it a threat to public health and safety.

Government lawyers are expected to argue that Djokovic’s presence is fueling vaccine sentiment in Australia amid a tidal wave of Omicron infections.

They are also expected to say that Djokovic will not comply with COVID-19 regulations, which pose a risk to public health.

The tennis champion 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 seal unveiling, youth tennis event and granted a media interview by the time he was tested and his infection was confirmed.

In a statement, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the government was “firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic”, citing “health and good order” for the decided to cancel Djokovic’s visa again.

Hawke said “it was in the public interest to do so”.

The government has agreed not to deport Djokovic until the trial is over, attorney Stephen Lloyd said in an emergency late Friday night in federal court.

Djokovic is the Australian Open’s top scorer and a nine – time tournament winner. He only practiced hours before Hawke’s decision was announced.

It is unclear whether Djokovic will choose to stay and fight the case if he believes he is unable to take part in the Australian Open.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused Australia on Friday of “abusing” the country’s biggest star and national hero.

“If you wanted to ban Novak Djokovic from winning the 10th trophy in Melbourne, why did you not return him immediately, why did you not tell him ‘it is impossible to get a visa’?” Vucic said on Instagram.

“Novak, we stand by you!”

Prime Minister Scott 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.”

The cancellation of the visa effectively means that Djokovic will be banned from obtaining a new Australian visa for three years, except under exceptional circumstances, which excludes him from one of the four Grand Slam tournaments during that time.

He is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 Grand Slam titles each.

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