Australia Court Hears Novak Djokovic’s Appeal

SYDNEY, Australia – Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic’s lawyer argued in an Australian court on Monday that the government erred in revoking Djokovic’s visa because he complied with all government requirements even though he was not vaccinated against him. COVID-19.

The hearing came five days after Djokovic was arrested at an airport after arriving on a flight from Dubai to compete in the Australian Open.

Djokovic arrived late on Wednesday with a visa and vaccination exemption to play in the tournament, which begins Jan. 17, but border officials rescinded the visa with the support of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The authorities said Djokovic was not eligible to be exempted from the requirement of full vaccination for everyone entering the country.

The long-running struggle over the world’s best tennis player, who is seeking a 21st Grand Slam title, has arrived at the start of an election year in Australia and kicked off another round of international controversy over vaccine policies.

With the Omicron variant pushing Covid case numbers to new heights in both Australia and the rest of the world, Djokovic’s detention pits those who argue that vaccination is more important than ever to prevent serious illness against those who insist no one should be forced to vaccinate.

On multiple occasions, Djokovic has expressed his opposition to vaccine mandates, saying vaccination is a private and personal decision. However, he did not reveal until last week whether he had been vaccinated.

Djokovic’s lawyers said, in a lawsuit on Saturday, that the tennis star tested positive for coronavirus in mid-December, and that the Australian government erred in canceling his visa over the vaccine requirement.

On Monday, Anthony Kelly, the federal court judge overseeing Djokovic’s appeal, noted during the hearing that his visa application included a medical exemption from a doctor, backed by an independent commission set up by the Victorian state government.

“The point that somewhat infuriated me is, what more could this guy do?” Judge Kelly said.

But the federal government’s attorneys, in their filing, said previous Covid-19 infections were not a valid reason to delay vaccination against the virus.

Under vaccination guidelines issued in December by the country’s main medical body, people are expected to be vaccinated against Covid-19 after recovering from an “acute serious medical illness” and, as the government argued, “the evidence is that the applicant has recovered”.

It is not clear if Djokovic is ill and when. On December 16th, the day he said he tested positive, Appeared at a live public event. The next day, he appeared at the Young Players Awards, where photos showed that he was not wearing a mask.

What is clear, even to the many Australians who say the rules should apply to everyone, including sports stars, is that they are embarrassed by the whole affair. Australia’s entry process for the tournament, and international travel in general during the pandemic, has been marred by confusion, dysfunction and political point-scoring which all add to the picture of incompetence.

Djokovic inadvertently joined the fight on Tuesday, when he was announce On Twitter it said it had obtained a medical exemption from the requirement that all people entering Australia be vaccinated or quarantined for 14 days upon arrival.

In a statement later that day, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tilly made it clear that players seeking exemption must pass two teams of medical experts. The process included reviewing personal information to ensure privacy.

Communications between national health officials and Tennis Australia, and between Tennis Australia and its players, have revealed contradictory messages about whether people who were not immunized with coronavirus in the past six months would receive automatic medical exemption.

Federal officials wrote to Tiley in November to indicate that positive tests for the virus in the past six months would not be sufficient for automatic entry into the country without vaccination. But messages leaked to Australian news outlets showed that an adviser to the Australian federal health chief also told Tennis Australia that the state of Victoria, where the tournament is being held, was responsible for evaluating the exemptions.

On 2 December, Brett Sutton, Victoria’s chief health officer, wrote to Tennis Australia: “Anyone who has a history of recent Covid-19 infection (defined as within 6 months) and can provide adequate evidence of this medical history, Exempt from quarantine obligations upon arrival in Victoria from abroad.”

Five days later, Tennis Australia passed the message on to the players.

Djokovic landed at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. After a standoff lasting nearly 10 hours at the airport, border officials said he would have to leave the country. He was kept in a room overnight due to the validity of his visa and questions about the evidence supporting his medical exemption.

His team filed a legal appeal against the ruling on Thursday. A judge said Djokovic would be allowed to stay in Australia at a hotel housing refugees at least until Monday while his lawyers await a hearing.

At this point, the decision had already become political. Australian leaders have a long history of winning elections with tough talk of border enforcement, despite the country’s harsh treatment of asylum seekers in maritime detention centers, and Morrison has followed a predictable script.

Facing a tough re-election campaign as the economy begins to recover from the wave of absences caused by the Omicron outbreak and a lack of testing capacity, he criticized the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa, trying to frame it as well-defined. The state of law and order.

Rules are rules“Our government is pretty strong when it comes to securing our borders, and I don’t think anyone would doubt that,” he added.

Critics of Australia’s immigration policies said they were appalled, but not surprised. The hotel where Djokovic is staying is home to dozens of refugees, including some who have been detained for nearly a decade.

“As a country, we have shown over time that we are very aggressive in implementing immigration policy,” said Stephen Hamilton, a former Australian Treasury official who teaches economics at George Washington University. People outside should look at this from this post and not as a health measure. It has nothing to do with health.”

On Friday, border officials told Czech doubles player Renata Vorakova that she, too, will have to leave the country, even though she played matches in supplemental tournaments last week.

Voracova, who has been given medical exemption for contracting Covid-19 for the past six months, was transferred to the same hotel as Djokovic, but chose to leave the country voluntarily rather than resist the decision to deport.

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