Djokovic wins in court, judge orders his release
After being held in immigration detention for five days, an Australian court orders that the World tennis number one Novak Djokovic "be released immediately and forthwith."
World tennis number one Novak Djokovic won a stunning victory over the Australian government Monday, overturning the cancellation of his visa and ending five days of detention.
In an emergency online court hearing, the judge ordered that the decision to cancel Djokovic's visa over his COVID-19 vaccination status "be quashed".
Judge Anthony Kelly ordered the Australian government to release the tennis star from detention and restore his visa that it had canceled because #Djokovic has not been vaccinated for #COVID19. #AustralianOpen2022 #Serbia pic.twitter.com/u8kAV21fG9— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) January 10, 2022
He instructed that the unvaccinated tennis superstar "be released immediately and forthwith from immigration detention".
After the court's order, the Serbian champion tweeted a photo with his team on a tennis court in Australia.
"I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation," Djokovic expressed.
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 @AustralianOpen— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 10, 2022
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. 👇 pic.twitter.com/iJVbMfQ037
Setback for Australia's government
It was an extraordinary setback for Australia's conservative government, which has imposed strict border restrictions for the past two years to halt the spread of COVID.
Several hundred fans dressed in the Serbian national colors thronged to the Melbourne law offices where Djokovic had watched his successful appeal, dancing and chanting his nickname "Nole".
The 34-year-old had arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday ahead of the Australian Open, which starts in one week, hoping to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title.
But the tournament may yet be out of reach.
Tennis champion #NovakDjokovic's detention has sparked international scrutiny, what's next for this case?#AustralianOpen2022 #Serbia pic.twitter.com/qhIwlPE8Mk— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) January 8, 2022
The government's lawyer told the court that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke may decide to use his "personal power of cancellation" despite the player's legal victory.
Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley defended Monday his organization from criticism that it failed to warn players that a previous infection did not qualify them for entry without a COVID-19 vaccination.
Tiley said he had asked the government to review medical exemptions before the players arrived, but "they declined".
"We asked if they could please assess our decisions. We said we're going to need some help to make sure we're doing the right thing. We'd be in a different situation today," he told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Read more: Djokovic Could Miss the Australian Championship
Nadal supports Djokovic
As other players now enter the final intense phase of preparations for the tournament, Djokovic faces huge pressure to be ready in time.
For his part, Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal said "it is the fairest thing" for his long-time on-court rival to play in the Australian Open.
"Regardless of whether or not I agree on some things with Djokovic, without any doubt, justice has spoken," Nadal told Spanish radio station Onda Cero.
After touching down in Australia, Djokovic was taken into an overnight interview with border agents, who decided the champion had failed to present a solid medical reason for not being jabbed.
"I am not vaccinated," he told the official.
Djokovic's visa was revoked, and he was moved to a notorious immigration detention facility pending deportation.
He spent four nights in the former Park Hotel, a facility that holds about 32 migrants trapped in Australia's hardline immigration system -- some for many years.
An early plea by Djokovic to be moved to a facility where he can train for the Australian Open had fallen on deaf ears, his lawyers said.
The court's finding, read out in an online hearing, said the government had conceded that its actions were "unreasonable" because the player was not given the chance to reply fully before his visa was torn up.
In the early hours of Thursday, Djokovic was told he had until 8:30 am (2130 GMT Wednesday) to reply to the proposed cancellation of his visa. But instead, the border agent canceled it at 7:42 am.
Had Djokovic been given until 8:30 am as first promised, "he could have consulted others and made submissions to the delegate about why his visa should not be canceled," the judge said.
At a rally in Belgrade, Djokovic's mother Dijana claimed her son was staying "in not human conditions" at the detention center.
Another tennis player -- Czech doubles specialist Renata Voracova -- also had her visa canceled after obtaining a medical exemption.
She flew out of Australia on Saturday after being held in the same facility as Djokovic.