Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Djokovic travels across Europe ahead of Australia trip, at odds with announcement

BELGRADE, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic was in Serbia two weeks before flying from Spain for the Australian Open, according to three Belgrade residents whose Reuters accounts backed up social media posts that showed their immigration declaration upon arrival. refute the information contained in. in Melbourne.

The accounts of two eyewitnesses and another person, obtained by Reuters on Tuesday and previously unreported, confirm earlier social media posts that showed Djokovic in Belgrade, less than two weeks before his departure to Spain and then Australia .

These details of his travel history are in contrast to a declaration submitted as part of immigration formalities for Djokovic’s entry into Australia, which stated that he had not traveled in the 14 days prior to his departure to Australia.

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Providing false or misleading information in the form is an offence, which carries a maximum jail term of 12 months and a fine of up to Australian dollars 6,600 (US$4,730) and can lead to the cancellation of the offender’s visa.

Djokovic, world number one in men’s tennis, is in Australia to play at next week’s Australian Open. When he landed his visa was revoked by the federal government, on the grounds that he did not have a COVID-19 vaccination and that his medical exemption was not satisfactory.

On Monday, a judge overturned that decision after Djokovic made a successful legal challenge. But the Australian government said it was considering whether to use discretionary powers to revoke Djokovic’s visa.

Two representatives of Djokovic and his Australian lawyers did not respond to emailed requests for comment on his activities in the 14 days prior to 5 January, and about the information provided in immigration forms.

Djokovic’s father, Srijan Djokovic, sent a statement answering questions from Reuters, saying: “If nothing had been clarified as set out by some journalists, the verdict would have been different.”

Three separate social media posts purportedly showing photos and videos of Djokovic in Belgrade were posted on 25 December. It is not possible to independently verify when and where the images were recorded.

However, two eyewitnesses who spoke to Reuters said they saw the athlete in Belgrade on or after December 24, which is within a 14-day window before reaching Australia via Spain. Both witnesses said that they did not remember the exact dates that the tennis player was seen. A third person confirmed that Djokovic’s video posted on social media was recorded on December 25 in Belgrade.

travel announcement

Before boarding his Emirates flight to Melbourne, Djokovic – like all passengers from Australia – was required to fill out a form called the Australia Travel Declaration.

Among questions on that form, Djokovic or his representatives checked a box saying that he had not traveled 14 days prior to his flight to Australia, or whether or not the completed form submitted to the Australian Federal Court by his lawyers as part of his legal challenge, according to a copy.

Djokovic told Australian officials that when he arrived in Australia on 5 January, he had traveled there from Spain, as submitted to the court by his lawyers and seen by Reuters.

Djokovic should have been in Spain from 23 December at the latest, in order not to travel in the 14 days before his flight to Australia.

Asked whether it was investigating whether Djokovic’s form contained misleading information, the Australian Border Force said it did not comment on operational matters.

It said that as part of Australia’s response to the COVID-19 Omicron version, it is an enforceable requirement that passengers, among other things, “determine their travel history for 14 days prior to their scheduled flight.” make an announcement for”.

street tennis

Part of the evidence for Djokovic being held in Serbia within a 14-day window before leaving for Australia centers around a video of an improvised tennis match, which shows Djokovic playing with an unidentified man on a Belgrade street on 25 December .

Video posted to Belgrade real estate executive Igor Rogan’s Instagram account shows someone playing tennis in a street, wearing jeans and a raincoat, matching Djokovic’s description. Reuters identified the location as West 65, a high-end apartment complex in Belgrade’s Novi Beograd district. A branch of Rogan’s real estate firm can be seen in the background.

The video was posted on December 25, with the caption that it was recorded on the same day. When the firm was contacted by Reuters, a female employee of the Rogan company said the branch in West 65 was open for business on 25 December and that Rogan had recorded the video in Belgrade the same day.

“I remember it was at Catholic Christmas,” she said. Orthodox Christians, who form the majority in Serbia, celebrate Christmas on 7 January. He asked not to reveal his identity. He declined to answer any further questions, citing questioning from Rogan. He told Reuters he did not wish to comment.

Two eyewitnesses who spoke to Reuters, and who declined to be named, said they had seen Djokovic around the same apartment complex.

Three individuals provided to Reuters support prior posts on social media.

A photo posted on Twitter by a user named Danilo Skerovic on December 25 shows Djokovic posing with a fan in front of the same apartment block. The tennis player was wearing the same outfit in the video posted by Rogan, holding a tennis racket in one hand and a tennis ball in the other. Skarovic did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Another photo of Djokovic was posted on the same day to the Instagram account of Petar Jordjic, an athlete who plays handball for the Serbian national team and Portuguese club side SL Benfica. The photo shows Djokovic posing with Jordjic, in the same outfit and against the same background. Jordjic did not respond to messages sent to his mobile phone number on Tuesday. SL Benfica did not respond to a request for comment.

During an interview by an immigration officer at Melbourne airport, Djokovic said the Australian travel declaration was completed by his agent, according to a transcript of the interview released as part of the legal challenge. Elena Cappellaro, who serves as his agent, did not respond to a request for comment on whether she completed the form.

Djokovic’s case sparked a row between Canberra and Belgrade and fueled heated debate over mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies.

Public opinion in Australia, which is battling an omicron wave of infections and where more than 90% of the adult population is double immunized, has largely been against the player. Serbian supporters of the tennis player alleged that she was being made a scapegoat by the Australian authorities.

(One Australian Dollar = US$0.72)

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Additional reporting by Ivana Sekularac, Leila de Cresser, Sonali Paul, Aislyn Lang and Belen Carreno; Writing by Christian Lowe, Editing by Angus McSwan and John Boyle

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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