In Melbourne, the court hearing of Novak Djokovic’s lawyers’ appeal against the decision of the Australian government to cancel his visa and not allow him to enter the Australian Open tennis championship was completed. The court examined the circumstances of the case and decided that the tennis player was deprived of the right to defense, the decision to deport the athlete was canceled. The court also published a transcript of the interrogation of Djokovic by border guards. MK-Sport publishes a translation of this transcript.
After landing in Melbourne on January 6, Novak Djokovic is interrogated by Sudhir R., an officer of the Australian Department of the Interior. The quotes are from a transcript agreed by both parties and released by the Federal District Court in Melbourne on January 10.
OFFICER: Are you vaccinated?
JOKOVICH : I am not vaccinated.
OFFICER : Thank you. Have you ever had COVID-19?
JOKOVICH : Yes. I had COVID twice … In June 2020 and recently – I had a positive PCR test on December 16, 2021 … I also have documents confirming this. If necessary, I can provide them.
(Interrogation is suspended to copy Djokovic’s documents. Interrogation resumes at 00:35 am, tennis player confirms that his manager has completed a visa application and claims that he has permission to enter Australia for medical reasons from the federal government).
OFFICER: Okay, so this medical exemption letter is pretty much about the Tennis Australia oversight commission and not the federal government? But you are sure for sure …
DZHOKOVICH: Yes, the process was, yes, the process consisted of two independent … two medical commissions … there was probably one connected with the federal government.
(Interrogation is suspended for verification. Turns out Djokovic is confused: instead, he has a certificate of exemption from the state government.)
JOKOVICH: Yes, so I just contacted my agent … this waiver was provided by an independent medical review panel commissioned by Tennis Australia and the committee’s decision was reviewed and approved by the Victoria independent medical exception review panel.
OFFICER: But you told me earlier that it was done by the federal government.
JOKOVICH: Yes, I was probably wrong, not the federal government, but the government of Victoria selected an independent medical commission that conducted the review in conjunction with the Australian Open.
OFFICER: This is absolutely fine, but the point is that you have entered Australia and border laws are largely regulated by the federal government.
DZHOKOVICH: I understand that. So do you need any additional documents from me?
OFFICER: Yes, if you claim to have received emails from the federal government … because, yes, we want to give you every opportunity to provide as much information as possible.
JOKOVICH: Good. So we haven’t received any emails from the federal government. This is what we got from the Australian Open medical team because they are the organizers of the event.
OFFICER: Okay, it’s okay.
DZHOKOVICH: And I’m very sorry, I apologize for the mistake.
(Interrogation is suspended at 00:52. Djokovic waits another three hours before he resumes at 3:55. He is immediately notified of the intention to consider canceling his visa.)
OFFICER: So I’ll just read out all the information.
JOKOVICH: I don’t understand, are you canceling my visa or?
OFFICER: This is a notice of intent to consider repeal under section 116 of the Migration Act 1958. So, once I serve you with this notice, I will give you about 20 minutes – or as long as you like, if you need more time, you can request this – and you must provide us with reasons why we should not cancel the visa.
JOKOVICH: I really don’t understand what else you want me to give you. I have provided all the paperwork that Tennis Australia and the Victorian government have asked me to do in the last three to four weeks. My agent and I were in constant contact with Tennis Australia and the Victorian government, medical board …
JOKOVIC: They have confirmed a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination. I applied, they approved, I just really don’t know what else you want me to say … I just really don’t understand why you don’t allow me to enter your country – I just mean that I was waiting four hours, and I still cannot understand what is the main reason – like – the absence of which papers? Lack of what information do you need? Or?
OFFICER: I’ll just read you all the information and give you a copy …
DZHOKOVICH: So, by law, you give me 20 minutes to try to provide additional information that I don’t have? At 4 o’clock in the morning? I mean, you kind of put me in a very embarrassing position when at 4 a.m. I can’t call the director of Tennis Australia, I can’t communicate with anyone from the Victorian government through Tennis Australia. You just put me in a very uncomfortable position. I don’t know what else I can tell you
And I would not be sitting here in front of you if I did not follow all the rules and regulations laid down by your government. So I just – I don’t know what I mean – I’m a little shocked that you are – that you are going to give me notice to cancel my visa based on what? If possible, we will wait until 8 o’clock in the morning, and then I will call Tennis Australia, and then we will try to figure it out.
But right now? They are all asleep! I don’t know what else I can do at this moment. So I do know that you are legally following me, but it just doesn’t make any sense. I mean I did the best I could. I can call my agent right now. You told me not to use the phone, so I don’t talk to anyone, nobody knows what’s going on.
JOKOVICH: But I really need to understand because you have been giving me very vague answers or literally not responding at all in the last four hours … You say “intent to consider cancellation” – I really don’t understand what that means.
(The officer explains that there are requirements for entry into Australia under the 2015 Biosafety Act and that previous COVID-19 infection is not considered a medical contraindication for COVID-19 vaccination in Australia.)
JOKOVICH: Sorry to interrupt, but that’s not true. The Victorian Government’s Independent Medical Commission has explicitly stated that if you have recovered, or have tested positive for coronavirus and negative for coronavirus in the past six months, and have sufficient antibodies, then this is considered a basis for obtaining medical exemption. This is how I figured it out. I mean, I spoke directly with the Victorian government, that’s absolutely not true.
(The officer then reads out a lengthy statement informing him that unvaccinated people pose a greater health risk from contracting Covid-19 and spreading Covid-19 to others, further burdening Australia’s health system. He adds that if his visa is will be canceled, he may be banned from entering Australia for three years. He then asks Djokovic to sign the document.)
JOKOVICH: I don’t know what to do at 4 am. If you will allow me, I need to turn on the phone, call my agent and try to reach people from Tennis Australia. I would never put myself in a position to come and sit here with you. And I, my agent and our team would definitely know if the rule for those who had been ill with COVID-19 for six months were not in force.
OFFICER: That’s good, but I have to go through this process, and therefore, it’s ok if you don’t want to sign it, but I’ll make a photocopy of it anyway, I’ll give it to you.
JOKOVICH: Okay, could you just explain to me if you would let me get more information over the phone with my agent?
OFFICER: As soon as I finish this or interrupt this interrogation, I will come back and let you know.
(The interrogation ends at 4:23 am and resumes nine minutes later. Djokovic is informed that he can now use his phone.
The interrogation is interrupted again and resumed at 5:20 a.m. when Djokovic is told that he will be transferred to a hotel in the city.)
JOKOVICH: But that hotel? Is it like a quarantine hotel for those with COVID, or what is it?
OFFICER: No, I don’t know what it’s called, it’s just a place … I assume the department has contracted the hotel to accommodate people who have been denied entry into the country to stay at the hotel there.
JOKOVICH: Good. Does this mean that I can take my bags with me or?
QUESTION : First, I just wanted to see … what is your response to NOIC – notification of intent to cancel a visa. Do you have anything to say why we shouldn’t consider canceling your visa?
(Djokovic reiterates his reasons for being allowed a visa. Interrogation then pauses at 6:14 am and resumes at 7:38 am. migration of 1958.)
OFFICER: Other relevant agencies will be notified of the cancellation of your visa. Here’s the notice, it’s 7:42 am. Hmm, your choice if you want to sign.
OFFICER: It’s okay. I’ll just invite another officer into the room and he will detain you.
DETENTION OFFICER: My name is Beck and I am an officer in the Australian Border Guard. I have learned that you are a non-citizen of Australia and are illegally residing in Australia. Therefore, I am detaining you in accordance with section 189 (1) of the Migration Act 1958 at 07:43 a.m. on January 6, 2022. Now I will leave you with my colleague.
DZHOKOVICH: As for the next step – will they escort me to the hotel?
OFFICER: Yes, the next step is to be escorted to the hotel. You will stay there, and then you can report to the airline. And as soon as we get more information, SERCO – the other agency that does this – will inform you and then take you back to the airport.
JOKOVICH: Good. Which airline do you work with? Because I can buy my own ticket to return.
OFFICER: Good. Whichever airline you fly in, we will let them know. So, you arrived on a company flight …
JOKOVICH: Emirates, yes, so I’ll go back to Dubai.
OFFICER: Good. If you have no more questions, yes, I will just end this interrogation.
OFFICER: Interrogation ends at 7:45 am on January 6, 2022.
(Djokovic is then sent to a government hotel for detention.)