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Novak Djokovic Deported, Prevented From Defending His Australian Open Title

MELBOURNE, Australia — The world’s number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic, has been deported from Australia, departing on an Emirates flight to Dubai 10:39 p.m. local time.

The decision came after government ministers intervened to reverse a previous federal court decision which had allowed the Serbian player to compete in this year’s ATP Australia Open tournament, before losing a final legal hearing today over his right to enter the country with a valid COVID-19 vaccine exemption.

In the end, Australian officials justified their unilateral move not on the basis that Djokovic was any real public health threat, but rather because of government fears that an unvaccinated Djokovic might inspire other ‘anti-vaxxers’ in Australia to rebel against the government’s vaccine apartheid system, thus, he might pose a grave risk to ‘public law and order.’

Washington Post reports…

After a weekend of hurried court hearings, a panel of three Australian federal justices unanimously upheld the immigration minister’s decision to cancel the unvaccinated athlete’s visa on the grounds that his presence in the country might incite anti-vaccine sentiment and “civil unrest,” clearing the way for the country to deport him and ending his hopes of competing in the Australian Open.

Although it would have been possible for Djokovic to appeal the ruling to Australia’s High Court, the timing of Sunday’s decision — roughly 24 hours before Djokovic was due to take to the tennis court — made another challenge unfeasible.

Djokovic, known for his stamina on the tennis court, released a statement shortly after the ruling saying his legal battle was over.

The world’s top-ranked men’s player said he was “extremely disappointed” with the ruling but respected the decision and would “cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.”

“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love,” Djokovic said, adding that he would be taking time to “rest and to recuperate.”

It was not immediately clear on what grounds the justices made their decision, which came after roughly three hours of deliberation. James Allsop, chief justice for the Federal Court of Australia, said an explanation would be released later.

Given the global interest in the case, however, Allsop said he felt compelled to point out that it was “no part of the function of the court to decide upon the merits or wisdom” of the immigration minister’s decision. Instead, the case only looked at whether the minister’s decision was “irrational or legally unreasonable.”

Alex Hawke, the immigration minister, said he welcomed the decision.

“Australia’s strong border protection policies have kept us safe during the pandemic, resulting in one of the lowest death rates, strongest economic recoveries, and highest vaccination rates in the world,” he said in a statement.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that the Australian government had humiliated itself by harassing Djokovic and that the player could return to Serbia with his head held high, Serbian news agencies reported. Vučić said that he spoke to Djokovic after the ruling and told him he was always welcome in Serbia…

Continue this report at Washington Post

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