Rachel Fieldhouse

News

Tue, 11 Jan, 2022

"Round 1" goes to Novak as ugly scenes unfold on Melbourne streets

"Round 1" goes to Novak as ugly scenes unfold on Melbourne streets

Novak Djokovic has claimed victory in “Round 1” of his legal battle with the Australian government over his cancelled visa.

However the tennis champion may still be forced to leave the country, with Australia’s Immigration Minister still considering whether to cancel his visa for a second time.

His hearing through the Federal Court of Australia - which he viewed via a live stream while at his lawyers’ offices - ended with the overturning of the government’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa on health grounds, ending his five days in detention.

Judge Anthony Kelly said it was “unreasonable” to cancel Djokovic’s visa and ordered that the World No.1 be released from immigration detention within 30 minutes of the verdict.

Djokovic will be allowed to stay in Australia and have his passport returned to him, despite the federal government’s strict requirements on foreign arrivals for the past two years.

Australian taxpayers will also foot the cost of Djhokovic’s legal team.

The Serbian tennis star posted a photo on social media following the verdict, showing him standing with his entourage on Rod Laver Arena after finishing his first training session.

“I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete (at the) Australian Open,” he wrote.

“I remain focused on that.

“I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.”

Djokovic’s family also spoke to the media in Serbia after he shared his update, thanking fans for their support and praising the judge for his verdict.

“The whole process was not about tennis or the Australian Open, it was about justice for what was done to him,” his younger brother, Djordje Djokovic, told media.

“Novak is only fighting for the liberty of choice.”

“We are grateful for [the] justice system for Australia.”

Djokovic’s father - who led protests in the Serbian capital of Belgrade after his son was detained - said his son’s human rights had been taken away, while his mother Dijana said he was subjected to “torture”.

“This is his biggest win in his career, it is bigger than any grand slam,” she said.

“He has done nothing wrong, he hasn’t broken any of their laws.

“He has been subject to torture, to harassment.”

After the verdict, Djokovic’s fans congregated outside his lawyers’ office and chanted “Free Nole”, believing he was being detained once again due to a heavy police presence and false reports of his arrest.

Chaotic scenes soon broke out, including clashes between fans and police, while fans mobbed a black Audi attempting to make its way through the crowd.

Officers used pepper spray to disperse the crowd as fans began banging on the windows and one man jumped onto it.

It was later discovered that Djokovic was not in the vehicle, with police confirming he had already left the building.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Djokovic was treated “the same as everyone else”.

The 34-year-old was detained after touching down at Victoria’s Tullamarine Airport last week, where his visa was revoked.

According to the court’s finding, read out in the online hearing, Djokovic was interviewed overnight and told he had until 8.30am to reply to the proposed cancellation of his visa.

Instead, a border agent cancelled it at 7.42am.

In a transcript from the airport interview, Djokovic expressed his confusion about why he wasn’t being allowed to enter the country.

“I just really don’t understand what is the reason you don’t allow me to enter the country,” he told the border control agent, according to the transcript.

But, lawyer Christopher Tran - representing the federal government - told Judge Kelly that, despite Djokovic’s victory, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke may still decide to use his “personal power of cancellation” to order his removal from the country. 

By doing so, Djokovic would be banned from coming into Australia for three years.

Image: @djokernole (Instagram)

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