‘Why Do You Torture Him?’: Serbian President Takes Aim at Scott Morrison Over Djokovic Saga
By Jack Hawke
Serbia’s President has asked why Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is “harassing” Novak Djokovic, questioning his motives after Australian authorities cancelled the tennis star’s visa for the second time on Friday.
Djokovic will be interviewed by immigration officials in Melbourne this morning before being detained again, after a late-night court hearing on Friday where his lawyers challenged Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel his visa.
In a four-minute video posted to Instagram titled “Support for Novak Djokovic and response to the Prime Minister of Australia”, President Aleksandar Vučić said it was impossible for him not to make a statement about the situation due to the attacks and pressure being placed on the Serb tennis star.
“If you wanted to forbid Novak Djokovic to win the [Australian Open] trophy for the 10th time, why didn’t you return him immediately, why didn’t you tell him that it was impossible to get a visa?” Mr Vučić asked in the clip.
“Why do you harass him, why do you mistreat him, as well as his family and [a] nation that is free and proud?
“A president of a small country has appeared who has the courage to say that to one great prime minister of a large country — I can because I’m telling the truth and you know I’m telling the truth.”
The President questioned the process that saw the initial cancellation of Djokovic’s visa overturned by a court on Monday, only for it to be cancelled again by the Immigration Minister “on health and good order grounds”.
“They often preach to us about the rule of law,” Mr Vučić said.
“You can imagine what it would look like if a minister in Serbia annulled court decisions.
Novak Djokovic is attempting to win his 10th Australian Open title.
It is the second time Mr Vučić has spoken out about the Djokovic saga — last week he said Serbia would “fight for Novak”, something he reiterated in Friday’s video.
“We will fight for Novak Djokovic and the fact that you will harass him for a day, two or five more will not change the sentiments of our people towards the people of Australia that we highly respect and appreciate, but also our opinion about Novak Djokovic,” he said.
“You can write hundreds of thousands of worst articles about Djokovic, he will remain the greatest tennis player of all time, and we will firmly keep him in our hearts.
“And you who think that you are achieving something by harassing him, you will never reach not only Novak Djokovic, but any ordinary man, both of our and your proud and dignified people.”
“Long live Serbia, Novak, we are with you.”
Serbian health officials say Djokovic did test positive to COVID
The men’s tennis number one had originally applied for a medical exemption to enter Australia because he is unvaccinated.
In his initial application, he argued he should be granted the exemption from vaccination because he had tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-December.
The matter has been transferred to the Federal Court, where a short hearing was held on Saturday morning before being adjourned.
A document showing that Djokovic tested positive to COVID-19 on December 16 is valid, a Serbian health ministry official said on Friday.
“After the documentation appeared on social networks we analysed the document, and the document is absolutely valid,” said Zoran Gojkovic, a member of the Crisis Staff team working on fighting COVID-19 in the country.
He said there was no legal penalty for those who break quarantine rules in Serbia, referring to Djokovic’s interview with French newspaper L’Equipe.
“I defend his free will not to get vaccinated,” Mr Gojkovic said.
Djokovic enjoys huge support in his native Serbia, where his parents organised a rally in the capital Belgrade last week that was attended by hundreds of supporters after the initial visa ban.
Earlier this week, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić gave a guarantee Djokovic would respect local rules if he was allowed to compete at the Australian Open, where he was aiming to defend his title and secure a record 21st grand slam.