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The judges did not consider “wisdom” in expelling Novak Djokovic

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Three judges in the Australian Federal Court on Thursday revealed their reasons for supporting a government order to deport tennis star Novak Djokovic, explaining that they did not consider "the benefits or wisdom of the decision."

Judges on Sunday unanimously approved Immigration Minister Alex Hawke's decision to deport the 34-year-old Serb after an urgent trial on the eve of what was to become Djokovic's first fight in defense of his Australian Open title. Djokovic accepted the verdict and flew from Melbourne to the United Arab Emirates hours later.

Chief Justice James Allsop and Justices James Besanko and David O'Callaghan on Thursday released a 27-page explanation of why they rejected Djokovic's challenge.

"The court does not consider the justification or wisdom of the decision," the judges said. "The task of the court is to rule on the legality or legality of the decision."

"Another person in the post of minister may not have canceled Mr Djokovic's visa. The minister did," they added.

Djokovic had his visa revoked at Melbourne Airport on January 6 after arriving because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19. A judge later ruled that the border guard's decision to cancel the visa was legally unreasonable and restored it.

But Hawke used his far-reaching estimate under immigration law to cancel the visa again Friday on a broad basis of public interest.

Djokovic was a "high-profile unvaccinated person" whose presence in Melbourne "could boost anti-vaccination sentiment" and increase pressure on the health system, Hawke said in his 10-page decision to revoke the visa.

Hawke had rejected Djokovic's arguments that his expulsion would appear to be "politically motivated decision-making" that could jeopardize Australia's role as host of this year's first Grand Slam.

Many claim that the government deported Djokovic in response to public anger that an unvaccinated athlete had been allowed into the country without undergoing quarantine, even though the omicron variant burdens hospitals, there is a lack of home-COVID-19 tests, and Australians' relatives abroad are barred from visiting because the authorities do not recognize their types of vaccines.

The judges rejected Djokovic's three pleas. The first was that the decision was illogical, irrational or unreasonable. The second was that the Minister could not ascertain that Djokovic's presence in Australia could be a risk to health or good order. The third was that the Minister could not find Djokovic had a well-known stance against vaccination.

"It was open to infer that it was perceived by the public that Mr Djokovic was not a supporter of vaccinations," the judges said.

Djokovic, who has returned to Serbia, is in talks with lawyers to sue the Australian government for £ 3.2 million ($ 4.4 million) for "ill-treatment", the London-based newspaper The Sun reported, citing a unnamed source close to his agent Edoardo Artladi.

John Karantzis, a partner at Australian firm Carbone Lawyers, said Djokovic could have a case.

"If he concentrates on the ... unreasonable actions he would claim against him, and not on political grounds, he can succeed," Karantzis told Seven Network television.

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McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.

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