An Australian federal court on Monday ruled in favor of Novak Djokovic and ordered the Australian government to overturn the cancelation of his visa, a decision that opens the door for the the world’s top-ranked male tennis player to participate in the upcoming Australian Open grand slam event in Melbourne.
- Federal Circuit Court judge Anthony Kelly ordered officials to immediately release Djokovic from immigration detention.
- The judge also ordered the Australian government to pay the tennis star’s legal costs.
- Ruling the cancelation “unreasonable”, the judge noted that on January 6, Djokovic was initially told he had until 8.30 a.m. to provide comments in response to the border authorities' notice, but his comments were sought at 6.14 a.m. instead.
- Border officials then made their decision to cancel his visa at 7.42 a.m., denying him time that he could have used to “consult others” and make further submissions, the judge added.
- The Australian government’s lawyer, however, has informed the court that the federal government may exercise further powers to cancel the tennis player’s visa again.
- According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Immigration minister Alex Hawke has four hours Monday to decide whether to use his “personal power of cancellation” to invalidate Djokovic’s visa, a decision still being considered as of Monday morning.
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If Hawke cancels Djokovic’s visa, the tennis player can still fight it in court. However, such a case would be more difficult to argue as the power vested on the Immigration Minister is very broad. If Djokovic’s visa is canceled directly by the immigration minister, the tennis star may be barred from re-entering Australia for three years.
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd criticized the country’s current leader Scott Morrison, tweeting: “Morrison just lost his case against Djokovic. Total incompetence! Like on everything else. If they seriously didn’t want him, why on earth did they give him a visa to fly here? This was conceived as one giant distraction strategy when out in the real world people can’t get tested.”
Last Thursday, Djokovic was detained at Melbourne airport and his visa was canceled after he failed to provide sufficient evidence showing he was eligible for a medical exemption from being vaccinated against Covid-19. Djokovic’s legal team then challenged the decision in court while the tennis player was moved to immigration detention in a Melbourne hotel. Djokovic, who according to court documents is unvaccinated, sought an exemption based on a recent positive Covid-19 test. However, some questions were raised about the veracity of the Serbian’s December 16 positive test result as he was seen attending a public event on December 17.