Djokovic fans protest shock Australia detention

The vaccine-sceptic tennis ace was detained on arrival in Australia earlier this week

Novak Djokovic’s fans rallied in the rain Friday to protest the tennis superstar’s shock detention in Australia, a development that reverberated globally and sparked an angry reaction from Serbia.

About 50 protesters — a mix of tennis fans, anti-vaccine demonstrators and immigrant rights activists — congregated on Orthodox Christmas Day outside a detention facility in Melbourne.

“There would obviously be a lot more people here if people did not have family obligations today.”

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“Refugees are welcome here, Djokovic is not,” chanted a group of protesters. Police intervened to separate them from the Novak fans.

The former Park Hotel, now officially known as an “alternative place of detention”, holds about 32 refugees and asylum seekers trapped in Australia’s hardline immigration system.

The five-storey centre gained notoriety last year when a fire forced migrants to be evacuated, and maggots were allegedly found in the food.

Foreigners are still mostly banned from travel to Australia, and those granted entry must be fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption.

Australian authorities said the 34-year-old Serbian star — who has declared himself against vaccines and claimed to have an exemption — provided evidence of neither and was detained, pending deportation.

In fiery remarks at a Belgrade rally, his father Srdjan Djokovic told a crowd his son was the victim of a “political witch hunt” and “corona fascism”.

His mother Djina Djokovic told reporters at the rally: “They are keeping him as a prisoner. It is just not fair. It is not human.”

Tennis players seemed divided, but some rallied around Novak.

“This is one of our great champions but at the end of the day, he is human,” he said on social media.

Although he won a legal reprieve from deportation until at least Monday, when his attempt to overturn his visa cancellation will be heard in court, it is unclear whether he will play in the January 17-30 tournament.

– ‘Not a criminal’ –

She also denied allegations that Djokovic was being held against his will.

Djokovic’s detention has sparked international scrutiny, with the Serbian government demanding explanations.

The country’s president, prime minister and foreign minister have issued a series of nationalist-tinged remarks brimming with anger at the treatment of the national hero.

“Rules are rules and there are no special cases,” he said.

“If they see (Djokovic) has provided false information, he must have a chance to answer that,” Findley said.

But Findley also said the revocation seemed to have come from “a pile-on from social media” and the government would need to explain the legal bar that Djokovic failed to meet.

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