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The world’s highest-ranked tennis player, Serbian player Novak Djokovic, has been put through the wringer by the Australian government, but his days of strife may be approaching a definitive end.
Djokovic is a longtime Australian Open champion whom the Australian government has repeatedly tried to bar from attending this year’s tournament because of his unvaccinated status, and this despite him having already contracted the virus and thus gained natural immunity.
When he arrived in Melbourne on Jan. 5th, Australian authorities canceled his visa and threw him into an immigration detention center. Five days later, an Australian court ruled in his favor because of a technicality and reinstated his visa.
At the time, Djokovic posted a tweet expressing his gratitude to the judge who’d presided over his case:
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
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
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 10, 2022
But Australia’s leaders, who have earned a reputation for extreme authoritarianism as per their mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, refused to accept defeat.
On Friday, Australian Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke used his power to again revoke Djokovic’s visa and again throw him into detention, reportedly with the intent to deport him.
“Deportation from Australia usually leads to a three-year ban on returning to the country. That would make Djokovic 37 the next time he would be allowed to compete at the Australian Open,” according to NPR.
The tennis star’s lawyers immediately filed a request for an appeal hearing, and on Saturday that request was granted in a way that’s expected to be highly beneficial to Djokovic.
“A statement released by the Federal Court of Australia on Saturday afternoon confirmed three judges would hear the cases, instead of one,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has confirmed.
“Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O’Callaghan will hear the appeal, which will begin on Sunday at 9:30am AEDT,” according to ABC.
Hawke had reportedly lobbied hard for a single judge to review the appeal, which suggests he believes the full court would be more likely to rule against him.
In revoking Djokovic’s visa Friday, Hawke had also seemed to suggest that he’s more concerned about the dissent the tennis star may inspire than he is about the tennis star possibly contracting or spreading the virus.
“Given Mr Djokovic’s high-profile status and position as a role model in the sporting and broader community, his ongoing presence in Australia may foster similar disregard for the precautionary requirements following receipt of a positive COVID-19 test in Australia,” the immigration minister had written, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
“In particular, his behaviour may encourage or influence others to emulate his prior conduct and fail to comply with appropriate health measures following a positive COVID-19 test, which itself could lead to the transmission of the disease and serious risk to their health and others,” he’d added.
The government is arguing in court that Novak Djokovic should be deported from Australia as “he may risk lives and civil order by eroding regard for Covid rules and vaccinations”.
NOT that he’s a threat to spread the virus.
That he’ll spread dissent.
ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION?
— Avi Yemini (@OzraeliAvi) January 14, 2022
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke concedes the unvaccinated Djokovic entered Australia with a VALID medical exemption and poses a low risk of contracting the virus while in the country and passing it on to others.
But now, they argue the tennis star could spread dissent.
— Avi Yemini (@OzraeliAvi) January 14, 2022
I’m pro vaccine and against persecution of people for their personal beliefs.
Dissent is the foundation of a democracy. Only totalitarian governments gang up on individuals who think differently. @DjokerNole has the right to express his beliefs without a fear of repercussion.
— Ksenija Pavlovic McAteer (@ksenijapavlovic) January 15, 2022
Dissent appears to be in low supply in Australia, where most citizens have kowtowed in submission as the government has imposed increasingly authoritarian COVID restrictions on them.
This isn’t to say there have been no protests. But there certainly haven’t been as many protests as one would expect in the face of such authoritarian decrees, and it’s clear Hawke would like to keep it this way.
“In addition, I consider that Mr Djokovic’s ongoing presence in Australia may lead to an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment generated in the Australian community, potentially leading to an increase in civil unrest of the kind previously experienced in Australia with rallies and protests which may themselves be a source of community transmission,” Hawke’s written announcement had continued.
“These matters go to the very preservation of life and health of many members of the general community and further are crucial to the maintaining the health system in Australia, which is facing increasing strain in the current circumstances of the pandemic,” he’d added.
The good news is that if Djokovic prevails during Sunday’s hearing, he’ll be set for life.
“[I]f the Australian government lose the case, it will not be able to appeal the ruling – leaving the world No. 1 free to play in Monday’s Australian Open tournament where he is chasing a 10th title,” according to the Daily Mail.
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