Court adjourns Djokovic case to consider verdict

IMAGE: Novak Djokovic leaves the Park Hotel in Melbourne on Sunday morning while under immigration detention to convene with his legal team in Melbourne. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

The Australian federal court on Sunday adjourned Novak Djokovic’s visa case to consider its verdict after hearing arguments from lawyers representing the world number one player and the federal immigration minister.

 

“We would hope to be in a position to identify to the parties later in the afternoon what the course is that we propose,” Chief Justice James Allsopp told the court.

The court will decide the fate of the tennis star after a rollercoaster 10 days that saw him detained by immigration authorities, released and then detained again ahead of a tournament that starts on Monday.

Earlier on Sunday, lawyers argued over what impact Djokovic would have on support for vaccination in Australia as the Federal Court was set to decide whether or not the unvaccinated tennis superstar can stay and defend his Open title.

Three Federal Court judges will decide the fate of the world number one tennis player after a rollercoaster 10 days that saw him detained by immigration authorities, released and then detained again ahead of a tournament that starts on Monday.

Djokovic is appealing Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s use of discretionary powers to cancel his visa again on the grounds that he was a threat to public order because his presence would encourage anti-vaccination sentiment amidst Australia’s worst outbreak of the virus.

The Serbian champion was escorted to his lawyers office by immigration officials to attend the virtual court hearing on Sunday morning, having spent Saturday night back in an immigration detention hotel.

Nick Wood, acting for Djokovic, pointed to how the player competed in the Australian Open and other major tournaments around the world last year without provoking protests or unrest.

“If there was any foundation for thinking that Mr Djokovic’s presence and participation at a tennis tournament might somehow lead to this anti-vax sentiment, one would expect that it would be supported by some kind of evidence about anti-vax protests or rallies or the like at tennis events,” Wood said.

But Wood told the court that nothing of the kind had been identified by the minister in his decision to cancel the visa.

Wood said that instead the possibility was a forced removal of Djokovic may spur the anti-vaccination movement and protests.

Stephen Lloyd, for the government, said Djokovic’s opposition to vaccination could be seen not only in his public statements but also because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 even after vaccines became widely available.

The government lawyer acknowledged that there was a risk that cancelling Djokovic’s visa could spark “unrest” among people who disagreed.

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