Djokovic is crucified...just like Jesus, says father seeking son’s release
Novak Djokovic’s father has demanded immediate release of his son from Australian detention, calling it the worst example of “political witch hunt”. As per reports, Djokovic has been housed in a place meant for asylum seekers and refugees.
The Serbian tennis player, who is currently world no. 1, was detained at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on Wednesday (January 5) and taken to a quarantine hotel after being denied entry into the country for not disclosing his COVID vaccination status. His visa was revoked for failing to meet the country’s tough pandemic entry norms.
Djokovic is a known critic of COVID vaccination and has been vocal in airing his views. There is still hope that the tennis star will play in the Australian Open, starting January 17, because his deportation has been extended until at least January 10, when his case will be heard in court.
Djokovic’s father, Srdjan Djokovic, addressed a gathering in Belgrade, Serbia capital, the other day. “My son met all the required conditions for the entry and participation at the tournament that he would have certainly won,” Srdjan said.
“Jesus was crucified and endured many things but is still alive among us…Novak is also crucified… the best sportsman and man in the world. He will endure,” his father insisted.
The Australian government has tough travel restrictions in place for people willing to travel Down Under. Foreigners who want to travel in have to be fully vaccinated or carry a doctor’s medical exemption.
The Australian authorities defended their decision to detain Djokovic, pending deportation, saying the Serb did not provide any evidence to suggest he met either of the two conditions.
According to news agency AFP, Judge Anthony Kelly warned the star’s lawyers in a hearing on January 6 that “justice would move at its own pace through all necessary appeals”. “The tail won’t be wagging the dog here,” he said.
The country’s Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews rubbished the charge that the Serb was being held against his will, and said he can go home whenever he wants. “Mr Djokovic is not being held captive in Australia. He is free to leave at any time that he chooses to do so and Border Force will actually facilitate that,” said the minister.
Australian media reports suggest Djokovic has been placed at “Alternative Place of Detention”, once a hotel, and now home to about 30 asylum seekers who have been kept here for failing to meet Australia’s tough immigration rules.
Djokovic supporters, anti-vaccine campaigners and refugee advocates reached the detention centre on Thursday with Serbian flags and festoons. Police held one person and forced protesters to retreat.
Meanwhile, Djokovic’s detention has invited international condemnation of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government.
The Serbian government too has sought an explanation. “Djokovic is not a criminal, terrorist or illegal migrant, but was treated that way by the Australian authorities which causes an understandable indignation of his fans and citizens of Serbia,” a Serbian foreign ministry official said.
In Australia, PM Morrison has a lot at hand already, ahead of the national elections and the Djokovic controversy has done no good. On records, the PM has defended revoking Djokovic’s visa at the last minute. “Rules are rules and there are no special cases,” he said.
Australia is battling a renewed surge in COVID cases despite the government’s emphasise on double vaccination. While the country has largely managed to keep itself safe during the earlier COVID waves, this time it is seeing about 70,000+ cases a day, mostly in the backdrop of fast-spreading Omicron variant.
Australians complained that the Djokovic controversy is only to divert attention from the COVID crisis. “This is happening while we’ve got a major crisis going on in terms of Omicron, and it’s been convenient from the government’s point of view,” Australian Medical Association vice president Chris Moy told AFP.