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- Serbian tennis player
Novak Djokovic’s father has declared his son’s successful appeal against deportation from Australia a victory for human rights and free speech.
The tennis player is sceptical of vaccinations, and has not taken up the Covid-19 vaccine despite the overwhelming backing of the scientific community for its importance in fighting the pandemic.
The men’s world No1 was detained at a Melbourne airport in the early hours of Thursday, where he was interrogated by the Australian Border Force. The country has strict regulations to prevent visitors who have not been vaccinated from entering.
Djokovic told the authorities he had adhered to requests by Tennis Australia and the Victoria government, who required proof that he had previously tested positive for Covid and that he had the requisite antibodies in his blood. However, his visa was revoked and was only reinstated on appeal after a lengthy hearing, when a judge found Djokovic had not been allowed enough time to prepare his argument when he arrived in Melbourne.
Later on Monday, Djokovic resumed training ahead of the Australian Open, and his family gave a passionate press conference in which they hailed the delivery of “justice”.
“People of the world, thank you for your unconditional support,” Djokovic’s father said. “He fought for freedom of thoughts, freedom of speech. It’s been very, very difficult for us, as for everyone in the world who is free-thinking. But he is extremely strong, a fantastic young man who aways tries to help, never to harm.
“Obviously the fact he comes from small and impoverished country was not something big, powerful people liked. They thought they had God-given powers that this world is their world, and it is impossible that a young man from a small, poor country can be the best in their sport.”
Srdan Djokovic said the authorities had taken away his son’s human rights. “The game that has been played over the past five or six days has been incredibly difficult for him and his family. He was met at the airport and he was not given any rights, they took away all his rights, his rights as a human being.
“He refused to sign that [deportation] document because there was no reason for it. He had done nothing to contribute to that situation. They gave him no right to communicate with his lawyers, his family, his friends. He was alone with them for several hours, they even took his phone. I’m not even going to mention what else happened.”
Djokovic is now preparing for the tournament, which begins next week, although this may not yet be the end of the affair. A possible three-year ban from Australia still hangs over his head, given the potential for a discretionary call from the immigration minister to supersede the home affairs minister, who was included as part of the court case.