- BBC News World
Novak Djokovic was arrested this Saturday after the Australian government canceled his visa for the second time, in a conflict over his right to remain in the country without being vaccinated against covid-19.
The decision, which the Australian authorities based on “health and good order”, means that world tennis star faces deportation and the prohibition to obtain a new visa for three years.
Djokovic’s lawyers called the decision “obviously irrational” and said they will appeal it.
The world number one tennis player is still on the schedule to play at the Australian Open which starts next Monday.
“Today I exercised my power to cancel Mr. Novak Djokovic’s visa on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision was made after “careful consideration”.
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic and, rightly, they have a right to expect that the results of those sacrifices will be protected,” the president added in a statement.
In an emergency meeting shortly after the decision was announced, Judge Anthony Kelly ruled that Djokovic cannot be deported while appeals are open.
An appeal hearing is expected on Sunday, at 9:30 local time (22:30 GMT on Saturday).
Judge David O’Callaghan, who set the time for the proceedings, did not say whether the hearing would be presided over by a single judge or by a full court (three judges).
Meanwhile, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic condemned the move, sending Djokovic a message on Instagram: “Novak, we support you.”
“If they wanted to ban Novak Djokovic from winning the 10th trophy in Melbourne, why didn’t they deport him immediately, why didn’t they tell him ‘it’s impossible to get a visa’?” Vucci added.
Djokovic’s visa was first revoked shortly after he arrived in Melbourne on January 6, after Australian Border Force officials said that “had not provided adequate evidence” to receive an exemption from the vaccine.
Djokovic initially entered thanks to a waiver granted by the Australian tennis association and the state of Victoria, where the Open is held. Although the reason for the exemption was not initially revealed, the tennis player’s lawyers said that the cause was that he had recently had covid.
The news of the tennis player’s arrest is known after he responded to accusations that, in addition, he had made a false statement on his travel form, which said that he had not traveled in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia, when in reality I had been in Spain.
Djokovic argued that the mistake was made by his agent, calling it “human error” and adding that it was “not deliberate”.
He also admitted meeting with a journalist and having a photo shoot after testing positive for COVID-19.
“I oppose vaccines”
Some Australians, who have lived under long and strict lockdowns, were outraged after Djokovic was allowed to enter despite not being vaccinated.
The athlete said in April of last year: “I am personally opposed to vaccines and I would not like anyone to force me to get vaccinated so I can travel”.
In Australia there are tens of thousands of cases of covid daily, after the country has gone through one of the strictest quarantines in the world.
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