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Australia cancels visa, Djokovic detained ahead of deportation appeal

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MELBOURNE — Novak Djokovic will spend Saturday night in immigration detention before the tennis world number one seeks a court ruling to stop his deportation and keep his bid for a record 21st Australian Open major title alive.

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Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has decided to revoke the Serbian superstar’s visa because his presence could further opposition to the COVID-19 vaccination in Australia, court documents released after an initial hearing showed. Federal Court on Saturday.

This will be a second stint in detention for Djokovic, who spent his first four nights in Australia in a hotel, detention before a judge released him on Monday after finding that a decision to revoke his visa to arrival had been unreasonable.

“While I accept that Mr Djokovic poses a negligible individual risk of transmitting COVID-19 to others, I nevertheless consider that his presence may pose a health risk to the Australian community,” Hawke said in a statement. a letter to Djokovic and his Legal Team.

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This explanation in Djokovic’s affidavit is more detailed than the brief statement Hawke released on Friday, which said his decision was based on “reasons of health and good order.”

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Judge David O’Callaghan has scheduled a hearing on Djokovic’s appeal for 9:30 a.m. Sunday (2230 GMT Saturday), with whether it will be before a single judge or a full court yet to be determined.

Djokovic’s lawyers said on Friday they would argue that deportation would only further inflame anti-vaccine sentiment and be as much of a threat to disorder and public health as letting him stay and exempting him from the Australian requirement that all visitors be vaccinated.

A court order issued on Friday evening had required the 34-year-old to surrender to immigration officials for an interview on Saturday morning, before being brought before the officers of his lawyers for the preliminary investigation. After leaving his lawyers, he must be placed in immigration detention.

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Border forces and the immigration minister’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Djokovic’s attendance at the interview.

The government has said it will not expel Djokovic until his appeal is heard. Djokovic wants to be able to defend his title at the Australian Open, which starts on Monday.

SAGA TIRE PLAYERS

The controversy eclipsed the traditional build-up to the Grand Slam event, and players were fed up with the saga.

“Honestly, I’m a bit tired of the situation because I just believe it’s important to talk about our sport, about tennis,” said Spaniard Rafa Nadal, who is tied for 21 major titles with Djokovic. to reporters at Melbourne Park, where the event will be played.

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Djokovic’s medical exemption from vaccine requirements to play the Open has sparked huge anger in Australia, which has endured some of the toughest COVID-19 lockdowns in the world and where more than 90% of adults are vaccinated , but hospitalization rates continue to reach record highs.

As scientists and global policymakers focus on vaccinating as many people as possible to end the pandemic, Djokovic’s refusal to be vaccinated has fueled the anti-vaccination movement, especially in his native Serbia. and surrounding countries.

The tennis player controversy has become a political touchstone for Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he prepares for an election due in May.

His government has won support at home for its tough stance on border security during the pandemic, but it has been criticized for its handling of Djokovic’s visa application.

Djokovic, who is set to face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovi in ​​the first round of the Open, is in the hunt for a record 21st Grand Slam title. But instead of heading to the Rod Laver Arena on Monday, he could be kicked out on a flight from Melbourne.

He has the option of opting out and leaving Australia of his own free will.

“The Australian Open is far more important than any player,” said Nadal, whom Djokovic considers his biggest rival on the tennis court.

“If he finally plays, OK. If he doesn’t play, the Australian Open will be great… with or without him.

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