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Novak Djokovic: Australia loses bid to delay visa hearing – as court documents claim tennis star was sleep-deprived and questioned for six hours

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Novak Djokovic was sleep-deprived and pressured by Australian officials to cancel his visa after being detained at Melbourne airport, his legal team has argued.

Representatives for the world’s top-ranked tennis player say he was given a medical exemption after testing positive for COVID-19 on 16 December.

The tennis star touched down in the country late on Wednesday night, ahead of the start of the Australian Open.

However, he is now embroiled in a row over whether he is exempt from the country’s COVID vaccination rules.

His visa was revoked but he has appealed the decision. He is facing deportation if his appeal is unsuccessful.

The hearing is due to start at 10am on Monday morning (11pm Sunday UK time), after a request by the Home Affairs to delay it to Wednesday was rejected.

After travelling for 25 hours, Djokovic’s lawyers say he was interrogated for six hours at the airport before being allowed to go somewhere to sleep – only to be woken by officials half an hour later and pressured into making a decision on cancelling his visa.

Newly released court documents show he believed his exemption was “consistent with the recommendations of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation”.

At the start of the interview, just after midnight, an official told him previous infection did not mean he qualified for an exemption.

He responded: “I’m sorry to interrupt, but that’s not true.”

He added: “I explained that I had been recently infected with COVID in December 2021 and on this basis I was entitled to a medical exemption in accordance with Australian government rules and guidance.

“I further explained that my medical exemption had been granted by the Independent Expert Medical Review Panel, that I had previously provided all relevant medical reports to TA, including my COVID PCR test results, and that accordingly the visa should not be cancelled.”


A TIMELINE OF DJOKOVIC’S DETENTION

00:21 – 00:51am – Djokovic begins to be interviewed by officials.

4:11am – Officials give notice to cancel Djokovic’s visa, and give him 20 minutes to give “any further explanation”. Djokovic asks to wait until 8am so he can call Tennis Australia to “figure this out”.

5:20am – Officials say they will give him time to rest, until around 8am – 8:30am. The interview is suspended.

5:22 – 6:07am – In this time Djokovic waits on a sofa outside the interview room for a bed to be prepared. He was eventually taken to a room at 5:30am, but was awoken “around 6am” and “pressured” to continue the interview immediately.

7:42am – His visa is officially cancelled.


The documents claim he had received “a letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Tennis Australia recording that he had been provided with a ‘Medical exemption from COVID vaccination’ on the grounds that he had recently recovered from COVID”.

Pressured into cancelling his visa

He asked to be given time to contact his agent and lawyers, however the court documents allege he was pressured into continuing the interview and ultimately agreeing to cancel his visa.

The documents state: “Mr Djokovic, having formed the view that “[they were] going to cancel [his] visa, it’s obvious” relented, feeling he had no choice, and on the basis of an understanding based on what they had said to him that it was better for him if the interview was done right away.”

His legal team claim the actions of officials were “spurious and mischievous” adding: “It plainly was not, and would never have been, better for Mr Djokovic if a visa cancellation decision were made while he was unrested and without consulting with his representatives.”

Djokovic was left feeling “shock”, “surprise” and “confusion” at the actions of officials – as he believed he had properly complied with the law of Australia.

The player’s lawyers will get two hours to plead their case after the start of the hearing, but a number of Australian media outlets are already questioning whether some of the court filings back up Djokovic’s argument.

According to The Australian newspaper, the pre-entry approval Djokovic said he received was generated on data he provided to the Australian Travel Declaration app which gives a preliminary indication of a visitor’s eligibility to enter Australia, but “does not guarantee entry into Australia”.

Djokovic has previously spoken about his opposition to vaccination and has repeatedly refused to reveal his vaccine status
Image:Djokovic has previously spoken about his opposition to vaccination and has repeatedly refused to reveal his vaccine status

Gluten-free food deliveries, exercise equipment and a SIM card -the conditions in tennis star’s immigration detention

Australia’s department of Home Affairs was due to file its defence on Sunday. The government department gets two hours to present its defence from 3pm (4am UK time).

Home Affairs was not immediately available for comment about the case it plans to present.

Final decision due

Mr Djokovic is now staying at the Park Hotel, which is doubling up as an immigration detention facility until a final decision about his visa is made. -Sky News

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