Novak Djokovic detained as he awaits visa hearing

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Jessie Yeung and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 12:36 a.m. ET, January 15, 2022
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8:46 a.m. ET, January 14, 2022

Australian court is holding "directions hearing" on Djokovic case

From CNN's Hannah Ritchie in Melbourne

The Owen Dixon Commonwealth Law Courts building, where the hearing of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic is held at the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, is seen in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, January 14.
The Owen Dixon Commonwealth Law Courts building, where the hearing of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic is held at the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, is seen in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, January 14. (Mark Baker/AP)

A "directions hearing" on world men’s tennis No.1 Novak Djokovic’s visa cancellation is underway before Judge Anthony Kelly of Australia’s Federal Circuit Court. 

A directions hearing is the first procedural hearing held in immigration cases in Australia. 

Judge Kelly quashed the original decision to revoke Djokovic's visa on January 6, explaining that the 34-year-old Serbian had not been given sufficient notice of his visa cancelation, or enough time by the government to prepare materials.

3:49 a.m. ET, January 14, 2022

Can a previous infection be grounds for a medical exemption?

At the center of the legal back-and-forth between Novak Djokovic and the Australian government is the tennis star's unvaccinated status — and whether his Covid-19 infection in December should be grounds for a medical exemption to the country's entry requirements.

Djokovic's team argues: The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI), an advisory group for the federal government, included provisions on past infections in their vaccination guidelines.

Published in December, the guidelines noted that "natural immunity from past infection is recognised as fully-vaccinated in several European countries," and that evidence suggests past infection provides at least six months of protection.

However: The guidelines also clearly say that despite acknowledgement of natural protection, past infection "is not a contraindication to vaccination" — meaning it is not a valid reason for somebody not to get the vaccine.

Immigration law specialist Maria Jockel also pointed to existing government guidelines on vaccination exemptions as a counterpoint to Djokovic's argument.

In Australia, only significant medical reasons count for an exemption — like if someone had anaphylaxis after a previous dose, or they are significantly immunocompromised.

"Previous infection with the same pathogen" is not a valid reason, according to government agency Services Australia.

3:35 a.m. ET, January 14, 2022

Prime Minister Scott Morrison: Decision to revoke Djokovic's visa keeps Australians safe

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

In a statement released Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to revoke Novak Djokovic's visa serves to protect Australia during the pandemic.

His full statement:

"I note the Minister for Immigration's decision in relation to Mr Novak Djokovic’s visa.
"I understand that following careful consideration, action has been taken by the Minister to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa held on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.
"This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods.
"Together we have achieved one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates, in the world.
"Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.
"This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today.
"Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, prior to COVID and now during the pandemic.
"Due to the expected ongoing legal proceedings, I will be not be providing any further comment."
3:22 a.m. ET, January 14, 2022

A look back at how we arrived at this point

From CNN's Helen Regan and Ivana Kottasová

Novak Djokovic practices aMargaret Court Arena on Thursday.
Novak Djokovic practices aMargaret Court Arena on Thursday. (Mark Baker/AP)

Novak Djokovic arrived in Melbourne on January 5 and promptly had his visa canceled for entering Australia without a valid reason why he couldn't be vaccinated against Covid-19.

He spent several nights in a detention hotel in Melbourne, which also houses dozens of refugees.

His lawyers challenged the decision and won the legal battle on Monday, but since then questions have emerged over Djokovic's behavior after testing positive for Covid-19 on December 16.

In a statement published to social media on Wednesday, Djokovic acknowledged he did not immediately isolate after receiving a positive diagnosis — but denied knowing he had the virus when attending several public events.

He also apologized for false information on his Australia visa declaration, specifically that he hadn't traveled in the 14 days before his arrival in the country. Photos taken during that period appear to show him in both Spain and Serbia.

Djokovic said a member of his support staff submitted the information and the omission had been "human error."

In the statement, Djokovic also admitted doing an interview and photo shoot with a French sports newspaper while Covid positive, which he conceded was an "error of judgment."

Serbia reaction: Before Friday's decision, Serbian President Aleksandar Vuči�� said he was "proud" to help the tennis star during the visa dispute but acknowledged it was "necessary that people are vaccinated."

He also appeared to indirectly address Djokovic's admission that he did not immediately isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 in December.

"If you know you are infected, you shouldn't be going out in public," Vučić said in an interview with public broadcaster Radio Television of Serbia (RTS).

Meanwhile, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić told the BBC it would be "a clear breach of rules" if Djokovic was at a public event after knowing he had tested positive.

Read more:

3:13 a.m. ET, January 14, 2022

Immigration lawyer: Here's why Minister Hawke may have revoked Djokovic's visa

Justin Quill, an immigration lawyer in Melbourne, told CNN he wasn't surprised by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke's decision to revoke Djokovic's visa — but "there's not enough detail in the statement ... for us to properly understand the grounds."

What "public interest" means: In his statement, Hawke said he had canceled Djokovic's visa "in the public interest."

This could mean a variety of things, Quill said. It could mean the government wants to send a message to the Australian public about the importance of vaccinations. It could be to show the wider global community about how seriously Australia takes its vaccination requirement for all international arrivals. Or it could mean Djokovic poses a physical risk because he could become infected and pass on the virus.

These are just a few guesses, and there could be many more reasons. Ultimately, only Hawke and Djokovic's team know for sure.

"There will be a document, an actual decision canceling his visa, that document will be more detailed," Quill said. "That explanation will be something that will have been given Djokovic's team ... That would be what he and his lawyers will be poring over right now, and preparing to take this to federal circuit court again."

What Djokovic's team might do: The tennis player needs to show an arguable case and file for a temporary injunction, but it's hard to predict what the details of that case might be without having Hawke's full explanation, Quill said.

If he does file for an injunction and receive it, it might allow Djokovic to train for and play in the Australian Open, he added.

2:55 a.m. ET, January 14, 2022

Djokovic visa decision comes as Australia battles Covid outbreak

People queue at a walk-in Covid-19 testing site in Melbourne on January 5.
People queue at a walk-in Covid-19 testing site in Melbourne on January 5. (Joel Carrett/AAP Image/AP)

Novak Djokovic's immigration case has been closely watched across Australia, with people divided — and many upset at his release from detention on Monday.

A small but vocal group of anti-vaxxers see Djokovic as a hero who took on the state — and won. But for many Australians, the problem boiled down to whether Djokovic considered himself above the country's pandemic rules at a time when Covid-19 case numbers are soaring.

The state of Victoria, of which Australian Open host city Melbourne is the capital, reported a record number of coronavirus hospitalizations on Friday — just three days before the tennis tournament begins.

The state reported more then 34,000 new Covid-19 infections and 18 deaths, with 976 hospitalizations, according to the state's deputy premier James Merlino.

New South Wales also reported 29 Covid-19 deaths on Friday — a record for Australia's most populous state.

NSW authorities said they expect pressure on the health care system to continue for at least a few more weeks before cases plateau.

Border closures and lockdowns: For millions of Australians, memories of uncompromising border closures and other pandemic restrictions remain fresh — making Djokovic's case particularly controversial.

Australia was one of the first countries to close international borders in March 2020. For almost two years, tens of thousands of citizens were prevented from coming home. State borders also periodically closed and reopened, preventing families from seeing each other without a government-approved reason.

Some now question why special privileges are extended to athletes who travel the world when others only recently struggled to cross a state border to see a loved one.

2:54 a.m. ET, January 14, 2022

Djokovic could appeal the visa decision again — but would face a tough battle, lawyers say

Novak Djokovic practiced at Melbourne Park on Friday before his visa was canceled for a second time. 
Novak Djokovic practiced at Melbourne Park on Friday before his visa was canceled for a second time.  (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic's Australia visa was today canceled for a second time — throwing his participation in the Australian Open into question once more and potentially sparking another legal standoff.

Here's what this means and what could happen next, according to legal experts.

Could Djokovic appeal again? Yes — the tennis star could request a temporary injunction from the judge, said Justin Quill, a partner with an Australian law firm in Melbourne. During that extra time, he could stay in the country and appeal the decision.

But "you can't just appeal because you want to appeal," Quill added — Djokovic would have to show the judge he has valid grounds to protest the decision.

Can Djokovic play in the tournament during legal proceedings? It's not clear yet — the Australian Open starts Monday, with Djokovic drawn against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in a first round match that now seems in doubt.

What options does Djokovic have? Maria Jockel, an immigration law specialist at BDO Australia, told CNN Djokovic's lawyers now have 28 days to make representations to the immigration minister, who could then choose to reinstate the visa.

During that time, Djokovic might be placed in detention again — unless the minister grants him a bridging visa, which could allow him to play in the Open while waiting for the decision or making arrangements to leave Australia, Jockel said.

Djokovic's lawyers could also go to court — but they would face a difficult legal battle, especially given his admission earlier this week that false information was included on his travel declaration, Jockel said.

The declaration stated he had not traveled in the 14 days prior to arriving in Melbourne — but photos taken during that period appear to show him in both Spain and Serbia.

In a statement on Wednesday, Djokovic called it a "human error."

8:47 a.m. ET, January 14, 2022

READ: The immigration minister's full statement on revoking Djokovic's visa

Novak Djokovic of Serbia attends a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 14.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia attends a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 14. (Martin Keep/AFP/Getty Images)

Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement Friday he would use his personal power to revoke Novak Djokovic's visa for a second time.

Read the full statement:

"Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.
"This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds.
"In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic.
"The Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I thank the officers of the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force who work every day to serve Australia’s interests in increasingly challenging operational environments."

The immigration minister has broad powers to cancel visas — and if the visa is successfully revoked, barring an appeal, Djokovic could be banned from Australia for up to three years.

2:17 a.m. ET, January 14, 2022

Australian immigration minister says he canceled Djokovic's visa "in the public interest"

Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa again.
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa again. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image/AP)

Australia’s Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke has canceled Novak Djokovic's visa, he confirmed in a statement Friday.

“Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” the statement from Hawke said.
“This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds. In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic,” it continued.

Hawke went on to reiterate the Australian government’s firm commitment to protecting borders, “particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Section 133C(3) of the Migration Act grants the Immigration Minister personal powers under which they can cancel visas.

The grounds under which a visa may be canceled are laid out in section 116 of the Migration Act. Section 116(1)(e) of the act states that visa cancellation can occur if “the Minister is satisfied that it would be in the public interest to cancel the visa.”