An Australian judge has agreed to delay any effort to deport tennis star Novak Djokovic to late Monday, as his court case continues in Melbourne. With minutes to go before a previous court order expired, Djokovic won another temporary reprieve from Judge Anthony Kelly, this time until 8pm local time (0900 GMT) on Monday. Government lawyers had earlier indicated they would be willing to delay the deportation order, which is hanging over the 34-year-old Serbian as he seeks to remain in Australia.
Djokovic jetted into Australia last Wednesday hoping to defend his Australian Open crown and seal an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam title.
Instead of a champion’s welcome, he was questioned at the airport overnight before having his visa revoked and being transferred to a Melbourne immigration detention facility pending deportation.
The unvaccinated star was deemed to have not provided adequate evidence of a medical exemption.
The case is set to return to court later Monday.
Djokovic’s visa was revoked and he was moved to a notorious immigration detention facility pending deportation.
In an emergency online court hearing Monday, federal Judge Anthony Kelly listened to extended legal wrangling about the process, before jumping to Djokovic’s defence.
Declaring himself “somewhat agitated”, Kelly said Djokovic had provided evidence from “a professor and an eminently qualified physician” about a medical exemption.
“What more could this man have done?” the judge demanded.
Granting the Serbian ace some breathing space, the judge also agreed to postpone any effort to deport Djokovic until 8 pm (0900 GMT), acting minutes before a previous order was due to expire.
– Technical error –
Monday’s proceedings were repeatedly delayed as the court’s online system crashed under a surge of worldwide interest.
Anti-vaccine activists shared a link to the livestream, while others defied a court order by broadcasting proceedings live on YouTube and Twitch.
Later, the court provided its own YouTube link, quickly attracting an audience of 20,000.
Djokovic’s team of top-flight lawyers argued that during overnight questioning at the airport, he was “utterly confused” about the situation and not given fair redress.
The judge, too, questioned Djokovic’s treatment.
He asked his lawyers to confirm Djokovic had been instructed to turn off his phone at 4 am and that he had been held “effectively incommunicado” for nearly eight hours until his visa was cancelled.
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 years on end.
An early plea by Djokovic to be moved to a facility where he can train for the Australian Open has fallen on deaf ears, his lawyers said.
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