MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) – Tennis star Novak Djokovic won a court battle Monday to stay in Australia for the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19, but the government threatened to revoke his visa for a second time.
Federal Court Judge Anthony Kelly returned Djokovic’s visa, which was revoked after his arrival last week because officials determined he did not meet the criteria for exemption from the entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated.
The judge also ordered the government to release Djokovic within 30 minutes from a quarantine hotel in Melbourne where he spent the last four nights.
Government attorney Christopher Tran told the judge after the ruling that the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Immigrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke, would “consider exercising personal power to overturn.”
This means that Djokovic could face relocation again and could miss the Australian Open, which begins on January 17.
Speaking to Prva TV network in Belgrade, Serbia, the tennis star’s brother, Djorji Djokovic, described the judge’s ruling as a “huge defeat for the Australian authorities”.
He also claimed that “the latest information is that they want to arrest him” in an apparent reference to the Australian authorities. He did not immediately provide further details about the claim.
“This is definitely politics, this was all politics,” he added.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews’ office confirmed that Novak Djokovic had not been arrested.
Kelly said the threat of more visa revocations meant that “the risks are now up, not down.”
“If this man is to be expelled urgently upon personal exercise of the power to cancel, he cannot return to this country for three years, am I right?” Kelly asked a lawyer for Home Affairs Minister Andrews, who had earlier had Djokovic’s visa rescinded under his authority.
Tran and colleague Naomi Wootten confirmed that Djokovic will be banned from Australia for three years.
The government revoked the 34-year-old Djokovic’s visa shortly after he arrived in Melbourne late on Wednesday to play in the Australian Open.
There was a public reaction to the news that Djokovic, who has previously refused to reveal his vaccination status, will compete in Melbourne because Australians who have not been vaccinated, or who have been vaccinated with vaccines not recognized by Australian medical authorities, are having difficulty traveling . Quarantine restrictions. Court documents say he has not been vaccinated.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Conservative government is seeking re-election to a fourth three-year term in opinion polls due by May.
While his government was widely praised for containing the number of COVID-19 deaths in the country at the start of the pandemic, Omicron cases rose rapidly. He has been criticized for the lack of rapid antigen tests and his refusal to make the tests freely available to all.
He has sought to blame the controversy on Tennis Australia, which organizes the Australian Open.
Djokovic has been guarded in a hotel quarantine since Thursday, when his visa was revoked.
He appealed the cancellation in Monday’s virtual court hearing amid a growing public debate over the positive coronavirus test that his lawyers have used as a basis for applying for a medical exemption from Australia’s stringent vaccination rules.
Djokovic said he did not need proof of vaccination because he had evidence of having contracted the coronavirus last month.
Australian medical authorities have ruled that a temporary exemption from the vaccination rule can be offered to people with COVID-19 within six months.
Judge Kelly noted that Djokovic had provided officials at Melbourne Airport with medical relief from Tennis Australia and two medical commissions.
“The point that somewhat infuriated me was what more could this guy do?” Kelly asked Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood.
Wood agreed with the judge that Djokovic could not have done more.
Transcripts of Djokovic’s interview with Border Force officials and his affidavit revealed a “repeated plea to the officers he was dealing with, in his understanding, and without contradiction, he did everything he understood was required in order to enter Australia,” Wood said.
Djokovic’s lawyers have presented 11 grounds to appeal against the visa revocation. Lawyers called the cancellation “seriously illogical”, illogical and legally unreasonable.
Home Affairs Minister Andrews’ attorneys said in their report that the vaccination requirement can only be deferred for travelers who have contracted COVID-19 if their illness is severe.
“There is no indication that the applicant (Djokovic) was suffering from ‘acute critical medical illness’ in December” when his test result came back positive, the written submission said.
Andrews’ lawyers eventually conceded that the authorities’ decision to go ahead with meeting Djokovic in the early hours of Thursday and revoke his visa before he could contact Tennis Australia or his lawyer was unreasonable in the circumstances.
Djokovic was told at 5.20am on Thursday that he had until 8.30am to respond to a notice of his intention to cancel his visa. His comments were instead requested at 6.14 am
The decision to cancel his visa was made a little over an hour later.
Judge Kelly said that if Djokovic had been given until 8.30 a.m., he could have consulted others about the decision.
Neither Andrews nor Hook immediately responded to requests for comment.
The virtual hearing has been disrupted several times by the huge number of people from all over the world trying to watch the proceedings.
The New Daily News website reported that at one point, an expired court link was hacked and broadcast pornography.
Djokovic is a nine-time Australian Open champion. He is the defending champion and has won the last three titles at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic has 20 Grand Slam singles titles, a men’s record he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Inform McGurk from Canberra. Associated Press reporters John Bay and Dennis Bassa in Brisbane and Tom Moldovino in Melbourne contributed to this report.