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Judges did not consider Novak Djokovic's 'wisdom’ in deporting him

MELBOURNE (AP) -- On Thursday, three Australian Federal Court judges revealed why they backed a government order to expel Novak Djokovic as a tennis player. They explained that they didn't consider the "merits and wisdom" of the decision.

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Judges did not consider Novak Djokovic's 'wisdom’ in deporting him

On Sunday, the judges unanimously supported the decision of Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to deport Djokovic, 34. This was in response to an urgent court challenge. It came on the eve Djokovic's first match to defend his Australian Open title. Djokovic accepted this verdict and flew to the United Arab Emirates from Melbourne hours later.

On Thursday, Chief Justice James Allsop along with Justices James Besanko (and David O'Callaghan) released a 27-page explanation explaining why they rejected Djokovic's challenge.

The judges stated that the court doesn't consider the wisdom or merits of the decision. "The court's task is to decide on the lawfulness and legality of the decision."

"Another person holding the position of minister might not have cancelled Mr. Djokovic’s visa. They added that the minister had done so.

Djokovic's visa was revoked by Melbourne's airport Jan. 6, 6 hours after he arrived. He wasn't up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. The visa was restored by a judge after the judge ruled that the decision of the border officer to cancel it was illegal.

Hawke, however, used his broad discretion under the Immigration Act on Friday to cancel the visa on the broad ground that it was in the public interest.

Hawke stated in his 10-page decision to cancel the visa that Djokovic was "highly publicized unvaccinated individual" and that Djokovic's presence in Melbourne "may foster antivaccination sentiment" as well as increase pressure on health systems.

Hawke rejected Djokovic’s argument that Hawke's deportation appeared to be "politically motivated decision making" that could threaten Australia's position as the host of the first Grand Slam.

Many believe Djokovic was deported by the government to vent public anger at the fact that he had been allowed into the country unvaccinated. This is despite the fact that there are no omicron variant strains in Australia, and home COVID-19 tests are not available. Also, relatives living overseas are prohibited from visiting the country because they don't recognize the vaccines.

Djokovic appealed against the judges on three grounds. Djokovic's first appeal was that the decision was unreasonable, irrational, or illogical. The minister couldn't find evidence that Djokovic's presence could pose a threat to Australia's health or good order. The minister couldn't find Djokovic's well-known anti-vaccination stance.

The judges stated that "it was possible to infer that the public perceived that Mr. Djokovic wasn't in favor of vaccinations."

Djokovic is currently in discussions with lawyers to sue the Australian government for PS3.2 million ($4.4m) for "ill-treatment," according to The Sun newspaper based in London.

John Karantzis is a partner at the Australian firm Carbone Lawyers and said that Djokovic could have a case.

Karantzis stated that if he focuses on the "...unreasonable actions" he would accuse Karantzis of towards him and not on policy grounds, he might succeed.

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