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Serbian president launches extraordinary attack on Australia over Novak Djokovic

The president of Serbia has lashed out at Australia after national hero Novak Djokovic lost his 11 day legal battle to stay and compete in the Australian Open.

The unvaccinated tennis star will likely fly home in a few hours, prompting his nation’s leader Aleksandar Vucic to accuse Scott Morrison of playing politics ahead of an upcoming election.

Mr Vucic accused Australian government lawyers of ‘lying’ during ‘pointless’ court proceedings when they stated less than half of Serbians were vaccinated. 

‘You saw in the pointless court proceeding how much the prosecution lied,’ he said.

‘They are simply lying. They say there are fewer than 50 per cent vaccinated people in Serbia and officially the number is 58 per cent.

Aleksandar Vucic (pictured on Sunday) has lashed out at Australia’s treatment of Novak Djokovic

The 20-time Grand Slam champion (pictured on Friday at Melbourne Park) will likely fly home in a few hours after losing his 11-day bid to stay in Australia on Sunday

The 20-time Grand Slam champion (pictured on Friday at Melbourne Park) will likely fly home in a few hours after losing his 11-day bid to stay in Australia on Sunday

‘Don’t forget that’s higher than in many European Union countries. That was a pointless argument, but that’s possible in Orwellian performances.’

Mr Vucic said Australian athletes would be treated better when they arrived in Serbia for an athletics event in March and ‘and we won’t mistreat them due to elections.’

The president said he had given Djokovic his full support and told him he ‘could not wait’ for the tennis star to return to Serbia where he was always welcome. 

‘To mistreat the best tennis player for 11 days, and on the 11th day hand him the decision made on the first day…’ he said, Serbian publication Novosti reports. 

‘Thank you to the Australian people as I am sure they love Serbs. They think they have humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves and he can return to his country and look everyone in the eyes with his head held high.’ 

It comes after Djokovic confirmed he will not compete in the Australian Open on Monday and was set to be deported, recently being spotted at Melbourne Airport.

Chief Justice James Allsop, Justice Anthony Besanko and Justice David O’Callaghan unanimously decided Djokovic did not have grounds to dispute Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s deportation order – meaning he could face a three-year ban from travelling to Australia again. 

Stephen Lloyd, for the Minister, on Sunday noted vaccination rates in Djokovic’s home country of Serbia were significantly lower than in Australia, indicating the tennis star was a ‘talisman’ of anti-vax sentiment.

Aleksandar Vucic said he had given Djokovic (pictured) his full support and told him he 'could not wait' for the tennis star to return to Serbia where he was always welcome

Aleksandar Vucic said he had given Djokovic (pictured) his full support and told him he ‘could not wait’ for the tennis star to return to Serbia where he was always welcome

Mr Lloyd argued this demonstrated the Minister’s belief that Djokovic could be seen to influence his fans based on his own perceived stance on vaccines and ‘may foster anti-vaccination sentiment in Australia’. 

Djokovic’s high-powered legal team, led by Nick Wood SC, took issue with Mr Hawke’s reasoning for cancelling the visa, which was primarily a result of his decision not to get vaccinated against Covid.

They rebuffed statements Djokovic has ‘a well-known stance on vaccination’.

Mr Wood argued comments the tennis star made about vaccines in April 2020 which have been used to justify the Minister’s decision are not necessarily relevant. 

They say Djokovic insisted he was ‘not an expert’ and would do what was best for his body, after indicating he wouldn’t want to be ‘forced’ to take a Covid vaccine well before a jab to protect against the virus had even been developed.  

Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa, stating the decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to the decision to cancel Djokovic's visa, stating the decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds in a statement on Sunday night

Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa, stating the decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds in a statement on Sunday night

‘I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe,’ Mr Morrison said in a statement on Sunday night.

‘As I said on Friday, Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.

‘Over the pandemic, together we have achieved one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates, in the world.

‘Strong borders are fundamental to the Australian way of life as is the rule of law.

‘Our Government has always understood this and has been prepared to take the decisions and actions necessary to protect the integrity of our borders.’

The prime minister thanked the Federal Court for their quick decision-making and for having patience as the issue was resolved.

‘It’s now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer,’ Mr Morrison said. 

More to follow.  

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