Judge raises concerns over Djokovic's detention in Australiatext_fields
Melbourne: Tennis star Novak Djokovic's court hearing on his right to enter Australia with a visa exemption has begun today, with the Australian judge hearing the case having raised concerns over his treatment while in detention. Judge Anthony Kelly said it appeared Djokovic had received the required medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination before he travelled to Melbourne for the Australian Open tennis tournament and presented evidence of that when he landed on Wednesday evening.
"What more could this man have done?" The judge was quoted as saying in media reports of the hearing.
The tussle over vaccine exemption and visa to World's Number One player in men's tennis began last week, as Djokovic was cleared and given a vaccine exemption to chase his record 21st Grand Slam title in this year's Australian Open. However, after backlash from citizens and the media, the government revoked the visa granted to the Serbian and put him in detention at the Park Hotel.
Citizens of Australia are incensed over the fact that Djokovic was given a vaccine exemption while Australians must get the mandatory shot. Several of Djokovic's previous anti-vaccination beliefs as well as his wife's old posts linking coronavirus to 5G cellphone network have also raised fears that the tennis star could become a figurehead for pseudoscience.
The issue also turned political as the Serbian government has also announced its disapproval of Djokovic's detention. At an emotional press conference by Djooovic's family in Belgrade, his father also claimed that the Serbian player was being "held captive" and that they would not bend to government blackmail.
The judge on Monday extended a bar on Djokovic's removal from the country until 8 p.m. as the court hearings ran later than scheduled. His lawyers argue that a recent COVID-19 infection qualified Djokovic for the medical exemption from a requirement for non-Australian citizens entering the country to be double vaccinated.
That exemption was based on criteria defined by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), the independent body tasked with providing guidance to the Australian government, which border officials did not check, his lawyers said.
The Australian government, which has been accused of politicising the issue for electoral gains, has said that it warned the Tennis Australia body that the ATAGI criteria would not be sufficient and vaccinations were non-negotiable.
Czech player Renata Voracova, who was detained in the same detention hotel as Djokovic and had her visa revoked after issues with her vaccine exemption, left the country without challenging her status, the Czech Foreign Ministry said.