Furious Serbian president comes out swinging against Scott Morrison’s ‘political witch hunt’ after Novak Djokovic was threatened with being deported from Australia due to vaccine exemption bungle
The tennis superstar could be kicked out of the country next week after he arrived in Melbourne for the upcoming Australia Open late on Wednesday night before being rejected by Border Force officials over vaccine exemption criteria.
Djokovic will spend the next four days detained in a refugee detention hotel after the Federal Court adjourned his appeal to remain in Australia until Monday.
The Serbian president has leapt to Djokovic’s defence and singled out Mr Morrison as he accused Australian authorities of a ‘political witch hunt’.
Novak Djokovic’s hopes of defending his Australian Open title are under threat after his vaccine exemption was rejected by authorities (pictured, the star at last year’s tournament in Melbourne)
‘What is not fair-play is the political witch hunt by everybody including the Australian Prime Minister pretending that the rules apply to all,’ Mr Vucic said on Thursday.
He claimed other tennis stars were permitted to enter Australia with medical exemptions, but two unnamed players are now facing additional scrutiny.
Of the 26 players and support staff who applied for an exemption to attend the Grand Slam, only a handful were accepted, according to Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley.
The Serbian president described Djokovic’s treatment as ‘infamous in the proper sense of the term.’
The star’s Australian Open title defence and quest to become the greatest men’s tennis player of all time appear to be in tatters unless his appeal is successful one week out from the Melbourne Park Grand Slam.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (pictured on December 21) described Australian authorities’ treatment of Djokovic as a political witch hunt
Fans gathered outside the quarantine facility where Novak Djokovic is being detained on Thursday night (pictured)
‘I fear that this relentless political pursuit of Novak will continue till the moment they can prove something, because when you cannot defeat somebody then you turn to these type of things,’ Mr Vucic said.
Serbian authorities have already been in contact with the Australian ambassador, while Prime Minister Ana Brnabic hopes to get in touch with a senior member of Australia’s Home Affairs department.
Mr Vucic has also been in contact with Djokovic as the 20-time Grand Slam champion spends Orthodox Christmas alone and in detention.
‘I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him, and that our authorities are taking all measures to stop the harassment of the best tennis player in the world in the shortest possible period,’ Mr Vucic posted earlier on Thursday.
‘What is not fair-play is the political witch hunt by everybody including the Australian Prime Minister (pictured on Thursday) pretending that the rules apply to all,’ Mr Vucic said on Thursday.
Novak Djokovic supporters sang songs and lit candles outside the refugee detention hotel where he’s currently staying (pictured on Thursday)
‘In accordance with all norms of international public law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, for justice and truth.’
Serbian newspaper Novosti slammed the visa cancellation as hypocritical while media out Informer described it as ‘tyranny’.
‘The police treat Novak as if he were the biggest TERRORIST,’ the right-wing tabloid declared.
Back in Australia, dozens of fans and Serbian Australians braved the rain to gather for a candlelight vigil outside the Melbourne quarantine hotel where Djokovic is being detained.
Many were draped in Serbian flags, sang songs and held signs pledging their support for the world number one as a heavy presence of police watched on.
A supporter of Serbia’s Novak Djokovic holds up a placard at the hotel where the tennis champion is reported to be staying in Melbourne (pictured on Thursday night)