Tue, 09 Aug 2022

World tennis number one Novak Djokovic is to be released from detention after his legal team on Monday forced the Australian government to overturn the cancellation of the tennis star's visa on Covid-19 health grounds.

After the decision to order the release of Djokovic was announced, the Australian government's lawyer told the court that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke may still decide to use his "personal power of cancellation" despite the player's legal victory.

Thirty-four-year-old Djokovic arrived in Melbourne last week ahead of the Australian Open, which starts next week, hoping to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title.

But instead of a champion's welcome, officers at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport decided the unvaccinated star had failed to present a solid medical reason for not being jabbed.

Djokovic's visa was revoked and he was moved to a notorious immigration detention facility pending deportation.

In an emergency online court hearing Monday, the judge said the government side had agreed to drop its visa decision and he ordered Djokovic's immediate release.

Player held in immigrant prison

"Such release must occur no later than 30 minutes after the making of this order," he said.

Djokovic has been in detention at the former Park Hotel, a five-storey facility that holds about 32 migrants trapped in Australia's hardline immigration system -- some for several years.

An early plea by Djokovic to be moved to a facility where he can train for the Australian Open had been rejected, his lawyers said.

The court's finding, read out in an online hearing, recalled that Djokovic was interviewed overnight at Melbourne airport after his arrival late on Wednesday night.

In the early hours of the next morning, the player was told he had until 8:30 am to reply to the proposed cancellation of his visa. But instead, the border agent cancelled it at 7:42 am.

If Djokovic had 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 cancelled," the judge said.

Another tennis player -- Czech doubles specialist Renata Voracova -- has also had her visa cancelled after obtaining a medical exemption.

She flew out of Australia on Saturday after being held in the same Melbourne centre as Djokovic.

Originally published on RFI

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