Djokovic’s court hearing underway after glitch knocks out live stream

Technical issues saw the court’s live stream of the case crash, initially delaying the start of proceedings.

The live stream has since been restored, though the case had already begun.

Novak Djokovic has been confined to an immigration detention hotel as the No. 1 men's tennis player in the world awaited a court ruling on whether he can compete in the Australian Open later this month.
Djokovic faces visa court battle to stay in Australia today. (AP)

In early remarks, Djokovic’s lawyer Nick Wood SC told the court the Biosecurity Act requires overseas travellers to declare whether they are vaccinated, unvaccinated or medically contraindicated upon arrival into Australia.

He argued the legislation did not require the traveller to provide evidence. 

“Mr Djokovic made a declaration that he had a medical contraindiction,” Mr Wood said.

He said Djokovic did his “level best” to provide authorities with the evidence and documentation necessary to lawfully enter the country on his visa.

Upon arrival into Australia, the tennis star’s phone was confiscated at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport, Judge Anthony Kelly said.

“If you will let me talk to people – although you’ve taken my phone from me – I will try and get you what you want,” he said, according to Judge Kelly.

Mr Wood said Djokovic provided the evidence required for vaccination exemption in Dubai before he boarded the plane.

Judge Kelly further addressed the medical exemption Djokovic received, which was was separately further reviewed by an independent specialist panel established by the Victorian Government.

“The point I am somewhat agitated about is what more could this man have done?” he said.

Mr Wood agreed with the judge’s sentiment, saying the tennis star had abided by all the requirements he understood were necessary to enter Australia.

“He had done absolutely everything that he understood, was required to enter Australia,” Mr Wood said.

“He had engaged with Tennis Australia.”

Djokovic’s case has attracted attention around the world, particularly in his homeland of Serbia, where the country will be watching for the outcome of the case very closely.

Djokovic, 34, has been detained at a Melbourne immigration hotel since Thursday after the Federal Government cancelled his visa due to the tennis star being unable to provide sufficient evidence to prove he was vaccinated against COVID-19 or qualified for a medical exemption.

His lawyers will today argue the tennis star met Australia’s criteria for temporary vaccine exemption as he had contracted COVID-19 on December 16, which they believe to be a valid excuse under the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines.

Documents released by the court cite the ATAGI advice to be: “COVID-19 vaccination in people who have had PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection can be deferred for a maximum of six months after the acute illness, as a temporary exemption due to acute major medical illness”.

Djokovic provided evidence of his COVID-19 diagnosis upon arrival into the country.

However, lawyers representing the Federal Government are set to argue today Djokovic was relying on outdated advice from the ATAGI, pointing to this line in the guidance: “Past infection with SARS-CoV-2 is not a contraindication to vaccination”.

Novak Djokovic has been confined to an immigration detention hotel. (AP)

Svjetlana Kovacevic from the Serbian Australian Chamber of Commerc defended Djokovic, telling Today the tennis star thought he had followed all rules and regulations of the Australian Government.

“The fact is he wouldn’t be on that plane at all if he hasn’t got his papers authorised by the Australian Government,” she said.

“All he knows he has done everything according to the rules and he follows the whole process to be able to come and play at the Open.

“Novak acted in good faith and believed that he had all the proper paperwork to compete at the Open.”

Ms Kovacevic described the situation as a “debacle” that was “not easy to comprehend”.

“Giving him the green light it is OK to come and play – as soon as he landed on Australian soil telling him that he needs to go back – I mean, I can’t think of a more embarrassing situation,” she said.

“It’s just hard to believe that something like this would happen to anyone.”

Ms Kovacevic did not confirm reports Djokovic had suffered fleas in his bed or maggots in his food, but said the conditions were “very restrictive” and claimed he needed to make special requests for food, medicine, and “basic necessities”.

“For him to be stuck in a detention centre in a small room by himself on Serbian Orthodox Christmas Day, not allowed to have a priest visit him when he normally goes to church, that’s a bit upsetting for him.”

The suggestion the Serbian tennis star was unfairly treated at Melbourne Airport has been rejected by the Federal Government.

In a 13-page response published late on Sunday to the Serbian’s Federal Circuit Court appeal, the Minister for Home Affairs argued Djokovic’s claims of “procedural unfairness” and “illogicality” were meritless.

His letter from Tennis Australia did not “give any medical reason why the applicant could not be vaccinated”.

The submission urged the court to avoid ordering the “immediate release” of the 34-year-old and argued even if such an order was made, it would not prevent Djokovic’s “re-detention”.

Nor would the quashing of the cancellation guarantee the nine-time Australian Open the chance to defend his 2021 title, the government argued, saying the Minister could then decide whether to make “another cancellation decision”.

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