MELBOURNE (AFP) – Novak Djokovic’s family and fans have railed against the superstar’s shock detention in Australia, which left the world tennis number one spending Orthodox Christmas Day on Friday in a Melbourne immigration detention facility.
In a series of fiery remarks, his father Srdjan Djokovic told a crowd in Belgrade that his son was the victim of a “political witch hunt” and “corona fascism” and should be freed.
Fans chanted “free Novak” outside Melbourne’s Park Hotel which now serves as a detention centre. Draped in flags and defying the rain, protesters played nationalistic Serbian songs. Some held anti-vaccine placards, while others rallied in support of refugees.
The vaccine-sceptic tennis ace was detained on arrival in Australia earlier this week — his visa was revoked for failing to meet Australia’s tough pandemic entry restrictions.
Foreigners are still mostly banned from travelling to Australia and those granted permission to enter must prove they are fully vaccinated or have a doctor’s medical exemption.
Australian authorities said the controversial Serbian star — who has declared himself against vaccines and claimed to have an exemption — provided evidence of neither and was detained, pending deportation.
Djokovic “met all the required conditions for the entry and participation at the tournament that he would have certainly won,” his father insisted.
“Jesus was crucified and endured many things but is still alive among us,” he said on Orthodox Christmas Eve. “Novak is also crucified… the best sportsman and man in the world. He will endure.”