Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Australian Court Denies Novak Djokovic Visa Appeal; All Four Hostages In A Texas Synagogue Have Been Released Unharmed; Millions In U.S. In Path Of Severe Winter Weather; Countries Reject 100-Plus Million Vaccine Doses Close To Expiring. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 16, 2022 - 02:00   ET




PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has gone a long way.

But the government, having coming out so strongly initially, essentially had backed itself into a corner. It was an embarrassment when it lost the first court case that Djokovic mounted, when the first cancellation was overturned.

The immigration minister, who then had the personal powers to cancel it again, certainly took his time considering what to do next. It was around four days or so before he confirmed that he would be canceling it the second time.

And I think the accepted analysis of that passage of time was that the government was being very careful, was being very cautious, was being very thorough in considering precisely what grounds it would use, what justification, what reasoning the minister would use to cancel the visa, knowing that Novak Djokovic was clearly determined and motivated and shown he was likely to challenge it in court a second time.

And that's exactly how things had proceeded. On this time, with the second cancellation, the reasons given by the government were very different to those that were determined by the border force official that initially canceled his visa on the morning after he arrived in this country.

This time, the government chose a very different path legally. Essentially, the argument went like this. It argued that his presence in this country was potentially, maybe, might be, a threat to public order and safety because the minister said he was concerned about Djokovic acting -- or the presence of Djokovic galvanizing anti- vaccine sentiment in this country, that he could perhaps inadvertently result in fewer people getting vaccinated, could be rallies, demonstrations, public order issues.

There could be lots of people on the streets, particularly unvaccinated people on the streets. So those particular moments could be considered to be transmission events. You'd be more likely to see transmission of COVID under those circumstances. That was the argument they used. I think it took a lot of people by

surprise, because it didn't have anything to do with whether or not Djokovic was right in thinking he could enter the country with a vaccine exemption, as was argued in the first place.

The whole argument initially centered on the fact he thought he could get in here, exempted from being vaccinated because he had recently had COVID-19. His lawyers tried to argue that the government's case here was irrational, illogical.

They argued that really -- and based upon what we've seen over the last two days, with some substance -- that locking him up, threatening to deport him, not allowing him to play in the Australian Open, these things are more likely to fire up the anti-vaccine community here.

And they argued that not considering that was unreasonable. Now the government's lawyer spent a good deal of time in court today, essentially saying the government did consider this, that this was part of their considerations. They did consider the consequences one way or the other, regardless of which decision the minister made.

But the decision that was, that he essentially hinged it on, was this belief, that the continued presence of Novak Djokovic constituted potentially a threat to public health and good order.

The reason why that was always going to be difficult to challenge in court is because of the specific language within the law. It points to, might be, maybe; these are very low legal bars the minister has to justify.

And so, for that reason, I think the broad consensus among legal experts was that challenging a minister like this, on these sorts of positions, where he has considerable power and a great deal of discretion, that challenging them in court rarely results in success.

And that is what we have seen here today. That breaking news, Michael, once again, that Novak Djokovic has lost his attempt to have his visa cancellation overturned by the federal court of Australia, with three judges unanimously agreeing his lawyers did not prove their case.

That means he remains in mandatory detention and he's going to be removed from the country at some point in the near future.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Talk to me about the public reaction there -- and you being back down in your home country, my home country for a few days, now there is this Australian ethos, if you like, of fairness, of no special treatment, especially the tall poppies, as they say down under, you know.

And how much did that play into this?

You can't come swanning into our country and get treated differently to how I would get treated. A lot of Australians haven't been able to get back home from overseas because of rules.

BLACK: Yes, I think that sort of reaction you're describing there, that is what was at the heart of what is, you know, thought to be at the heart of the initial political reaction to this.


BLACK: We know that Novak Djokovic first announced via social media he was on his way to Melbourne with some sort of exemption. He didn't specify whether or not the vaccines were involved.

But there was a great deal of speculation in the leadup to this recent period of time about what would Djokovic do?

Given that, although he's made skeptical comments about vaccines in the past, he had not, prior to these proceedings, revealed publicly his vaccine status. So there was all of this speculation.

Then he sent that message via social media, he was on his way. And what that triggered was a really strong -- some people have said visceral reaction among the Australian public because, given that they have gone through a very difficult two year period throughout this pandemic, where some countries, some cities, particularly Melbourne have lived under very strict lockdown conditions, where state borders, international borders have been closed.

There's been a great deal of suffering and sacrifice among the Australian people. So the idea of someone coming in here, being treated differently in some way or the perception they're being treated differently in some way because of their wealth status, celebrity, sporting status and so forth, a lot of people really bristled at that idea.

And it was in response to that very strong reaction that the Australian government then responded with full -- with full political backing of the idea that Djokovic would get no special treatment.

And from that moment on, you could say the die was cast, really. That's what drew the line in the sand. That meant Djokovic was never going to get an easy ride, once he arrived here. And that's what happened when he first got a border force official who ruled he had no grounds to enter the country without any sort of appropriate medical exemption without being vaccinated.

It's probably worth mentioning the Djokovic view at that point, because what he had receive, from two panels of medical experts, one working for the Australian Open, one working for the Victorian state government which he could, according to the guidelines, he did have the right to play, based upon that recent COVID-19 recovery.

But it was the border force officers at the border who met him, interrogated him and decided, no, that wasn't going to cut it. That was when he first went into immigration detention and eventually led to his first challenge in court, where the court found in his favor on a technicality. They essentially said the border force officer didn't treat him fairly

and allow him consult his lawyers and get extra opinion before they did move to cancel his visa.

He's clearly been showing great determination through all of this. He was determined to get to Centre Court, no matter what it took legally. He's taken every legal option available to him.

And it's really come down to the wire because, as recently as this afternoon, Melbourne time, the Australian Open scheduled its order of play for the first round tomorrow and he was scheduled for a match tomorrow evening.

They're now going to have to rejig that, reshuffle in some way, to compensate for the fact, based upon this court decision, unanimous ruling by three judges, Novak Djokovic will not be allowed -- he's not going to be allow to be free here in Australia on this visit. He's going to remain in detention until he is deported, Michael.

HOLMES: Is it fair to say that this whole affair has really highlighted some flaws in the Australian immigration system?

I think, for starters, the fact that you can be issued a visa and then travel all the way to the country and then you're told the visa is no good, you don't have the paperwork, how does that happen?

That seems to be a pretty -- a pretty poor procedure. And the other thing, too, that I think has been highlighted -- and I'd love your thoughts -- where he's been staying is where a lot of migrants and asylum seekers have been staying and have highlighted how some of them are treated, kept for years in that hotel that he was in for a few days.

Two sort of questions there, I guess.

BLACK: Yes, indeed, Michael. So I think the Australian government has been making the point over the last few days, first on the visa issue, that having a visa does not guarantee you entry into the country. That is assessed at the moment you present yourself at the border.

So Djokovic's argument, his lawyer's argument, particularly in the first court hearing, was he had a visa, he had those medical exemptions from those panels of independent medical experts and he had filled in a travel declaration form, which all people arriving in this country have to fill in now, which essentially declares your vaccination status, where you've been recently, to essentially determine whether or not you meet the pandemic -- the existing pandemic requirements.

He said that he had all of that. And so that was why he thought he did everything he reasonably could.


BLACK: But as I said, the government says none of that means anything. No matter how much paperwork you have lined up in advance, you've got to meet the requirements and be able to prove it, provide the necessary evidence if you're asked to do so.

The moment you present yourself at passport control, if you can't do that, you're going to be pulled aside to a little room. He was questioned further, he wasn't able to satisfy the questions that were put to him by those border force officials. The other point that you make is that, yes, once he was put into

detention, he was put into detention in a facility that was a former hotel but is being used to house some people that have been caught up in something of a limbo within the Australian immigration system, in some cases for many years now.

And these tend to be people who have arrived here, seeking asylum. According to refugee advocacy groups, some of these people do have -- do have refugee status. But the Australian government has a policy that is meant to deter people arriving on its shores by boats and so forth, by saying, if you arrive on this -- arrive here without proper documentation, then you will never be settled here.

So even if people are found to be refugees legally under all the proper rules and safeguards, then it means they still, according to the Australian government, have to be settled somewhere else. So that's how people get caught up in this limbo, if you like, that can last many, many years.

And Djokovic staying at that same facility has certainly drawn some degree of international attention to the plight of those people and some perhaps renewed criticism for what many people believe to be a very tough -- and certainly, its critics say, is a particularly heartless aspect of the Australian immigration system.

HOLMES: Yes, a great summary of what's been going on by our Phil Black there in Melbourne. Phil, thanks so much. Appreciate it.


HOLMES: We'll take a quick break here. We'll be back with more on Novak Djokovic. He's lost his court case. He won't play at the Australian Open. He'll probably be out of the country in the next few hours.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

HOLMES: The breaking news is that the tennis star, the world number one, Novak Djokovic, has lost his court case. He will not be allowed to defend his title in the Australian Open tennis tournament and faces deportation -- or at least leaving the country.

That's the ruling just handed down by a federal court in Melbourne. The hearing was Djokovic's last attempt to stay in the country, despite having his visa revoked twice over his COVID vaccination status.

But the court ultimately sided with Australia's immigration minister, who revoked the visa over concerns the unvaccinated star's presence could spur a rise in anti-vaccine sentiment.



HOLMES: OK, let's keep this going and go across to CNN's Scott McLean, who is in Belgrade, Serbia.

And Scott, when you think about the reaction there in Serbia, his family was angry at how he's been treated. The government was angry and angry at the Australian government. The people there are angry and that was before this decision.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what's remarkable, Michael, is how uncontroversial this whole situation was in this country.

I say uncontroversial because people were almost universally in support of Novak Djokovic. They simply could not understand how he could travel to Australia and somehow end up in this mess.

And perhaps the headline banner on the public broadcaster as soon, as this news broke here in Serbia, said it best. It simply said, "Disgraced."

They had someone on, the acting president of the Belgrade Tennis Association, who says Australia has lost its honor.

And what was interesting to me in listening to the judge last hour explain this ruling is he sort of gave a preamble that clarified what this whole process was about, because, in part, of the interest this is generating in Serbia, saying that, look, this is not an appeal.

This is simply a review of the minister's decision to make sure that it was generally in line with Australian law. And that almost seems like it could have been directed at the Serbian president because Aleksandar Vucic came out with a statement just this weekend saying -- well, he left nothing unsaid when it comes to his feelings about the Australian government.

He said that, look, Australia likes to preach to us about the rule of law. He found it amazing that you could have a politician overruling the will of a judge.

He wasn't upset with the Australian judicial system and he said that they probably wouldn't have said anything, had this simply been a decision for the courts to make. His issue was with the political intervention in this case.


MCLEAN: And what's even more interesting, perhaps a little bit ironic is that actually today, Michael, there is a referendum being held here in Serbia to change the constitution to make judges more independent, to put them in line with the rest of the E.U.

So I would be very curious to know if this decision changes that at all, given how Australia looks in this situation, in the eyes of most ordinary Serbians. They find it pretty remarkable that you can have a politician overruling the decision by a judge earlier in this case.

HOLMES: Yes, complicated stuff. Yes, Scott McLean, appreciate it there.

And quite separately, it's a beautiful scene behind you. Scott McLean in Belgrade.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

HOLMES: And welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

And we continue tracking the breaking news out of Texas, where all hostages have now been rescued at a Ft. Worth area synagogue. The crisis began when an attacker stormed the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville on Saturday.

It was during a small service which was being live streamed. Four people were trapped. One hostage was released earlier in the day. Three had remained in harm's way. As night fell, law enforcement made the decision to go in.


HOLMES: A CNN crew on the ground heard loud bangs and gunfire as law enforcement secured the final hostages. Here's how the Colleyville police chief described what happened.


CHIEF MICHAEL MILLER, COLLEYVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: The HRT, the hostage rescue team, breached the synagogue. They rescued the three hostages. And the subject is deceased.


HOLMES: You heard it there. The attacker dead, everyone else safe. CNN's Ed Lavandera was there in Colleyville when the hostage rescue began. He filed this report.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nearly 11 hours after a suspect entered the Beth Israel synagogue here in Colleyville, Texas, we have learned that the suspect is dead and that all four of the hostages are alive and well. One of the hostages had been released earlier in the day around 5

o'clock Central time. But law enforcement officials say they have identified the suspect but they are not ready to announce who that person is, as they continue their investigation into the motives behind this attack on this synagogue.

It was a frightening and harrowing day for members of this synagogue, which is a small synagogue here in Colleyville, about 150 members. They were watching desperately and frantically throughout the day, waiting for and praying for this outcome that they saw unfold here this evening.

Many members of the congregation that we spoke with say that members had not been attending the services here at this synagogue because of COVID pandemic restrictions, that it was -- most people were at home, watching on the livestream.

And that is where they began to see all of this unfold just before 11 o'clock in the morning. And they heard what was described as the ranting and raving and harrowing screaming coming from the suspect inside the synagogue. But tonight, all of them celebrating the fact that four of their synagogue members are now alive and well -- back to you.


HOLMES: I want to turn to CNN's national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, she served as an assistant secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Juliette, let's talk about, in your experience, we heard from the news conference that the negotiators seemed to have been the heroes of the day, according to the FBI spokesman there. And talked about how it ebbed and flowed and got intense at some times.

What sorts of things, in your experience, would predicate a decision to go in?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So just going back, from the beginning of the day, there was this sort of caricature of how law enforcement works or at least professional law enforcement.

They're just going to run in and everything has to be fast and resolved. And the truth is, for a hostage negotiator, in most instances, because it's not an active shooter situation -- those are two different situations -- in a hostage situation you're really trying to buy times.

We call it you're trying to extend the runway and give more time.

Why are you buying time?

The hostage taker may give up, he may release a hostage as we saw earlier today. He may tire or he may become more agitated.

But even if he becomes more agitated, that's giving the FBI -- basically they were on the ground for about 8 hours or 9 hours -- a lot of time to figure out how to get into the building and get the hostages out safely, because those are precision operations, right?

The boom, the entry and the protection of the hostages and, as we know now, the killing of the perpetrator, so that's basically what happened behind closed doors, rightfully so.

You have the continuing negotiation, the buying of a long period of time and then the entry. What triggers it may either be -- it's either the hostage has exposed a vulnerability and they're going to come in or they've lost contact with the hostage taker and want to get in relatively quickly.

HOLMES: We also heard they're going to be having an investigation, of course, a global investigation,, according to the FBI.

What sorts of things are investigators going to be looking for?

KAYYEM: So it's -- if he was animated by the Siddiqui aura, let's say, the sort of radicalization that comes from supporting Siddiqui, who's a female Al Qaeda member, someone who is in jail in Texas -- so we don't know if there's a relation there, the fact she happens to be in jail there.

So was he radicalized because of just her cult-like status?

Or was he radicalized to do this, to sort of operationalize her sort of anti-Semitism?

Because, like you, I don't see how you separate her from the anti- Semitism of targeting a synagogue.


KAYYEM: Or whether he was targeted or told to do something like this. I have to say, just based on the evidence so far and my experience, I can tell you -- so he does not seem terribly sophisticated visually, from what we're told from congregants. He's apologizing, animated, doesn't seem in control.

He appears to have no exit strategy, chooses a synagogue that -- that he claims was because it was near an airport. So there was no reason to have chosen it except for geography. So they may believe he was both radicalized alone and acted alone.

That is not to negate the radicalization that is occurring within terrorist organizations or within the jihadist organizations to target synagogues globally, which we're just seeing throughout the United States and the world.

HOLMES: Yes. And there's a lot we're going to learn, a lot we don't know yet. But it doesn't seem massively so sophisticated. As you say, a small synagogue in the suburbs, as Ed Lavandera was saying. You know, that just doesn't sound like it was particularly well thought out. And I guess that points to the difficulty of stopping such things as well. KAYYEM: Yes. And also to the fear.

In other words, you do things in your life you know are sort of higher profile, right?

You go to a big Super Bowl, you sort of -- there's some expectation you might be increasing your vulnerability. But you know, you join a small synagogue in the suburbs in Texas, with 100 members or families.

And it's that vulnerability that terror actually sort of breeds off of, that, as a Jewish American, you're not safe anywhere. And we hear this through the Jewish community. I work with many synagogues in terms of their safety and security, in terms of ensuring that they are safer.

And the challenge or the horror of this for the community and those I speak to -- and my children are Jewish -- is synagogues are meant to be open. In other words, most religious institutions are. They want people of their own faith to feel welcome. But they also want people of other faiths to be welcome and understand them.

So the more you are forcing synagogues or any religious entity to become hard targets, right, you're also denying them their ability to practice their faith. And I think that's what you're hearing, much more eloquently than me, from members of the Jewish community.

But certainly from a security perspective, there is a loss of going from being a soft target to a hard target that you can't measure in security terms, right?

And I think that's what you're hearing today.

HOLMES: Yes, great analysis. I mean, they said they were processing the scene now.

What are they going to be looking for?

KAYYEM: So a couple -- so I think the most important thing is, who was he?

What is his social media or internet access?

How did he get there?

How did he choose that synagogue?

So just basically -- in weird ways, these are such elevated events. But then they become quite traditional in their investigation. So you're going to have both the social media review, who was he in contact with as well as family, friends and others.

Throughout the day, there was speculation about who he was and his relationship to Siddiqui. We're not -- we don't know anything yet. Remember she -- it's hard to explain her status in radicalization circles, because she's both a woman and there's so few women and she's an educated woman. She's viewed as a -- Siddiqui is the woman jailed in Texas, who --

this perpetrator alleges he wanted her free. She's viewed as being unfairly or not accurately convicted and has become sort of a galvanizing force for a lot of the radical elements within -- not within Islam but within violent Islam, that would do something like this.

HOLMES: Yes. Great analysis, Juliette. Thanks, my friend. I appreciate it.

KAYYEM: Good night.


HOLMES: Parts of the U.S. being hit with heavy winter weather. Everything you need to know about this storm from the CNN Weather Center and Derek Van Dam. That's coming up.





HOLMES: We are continuing to track a winter storm moving through the southern U.S., bringing heavy snow, ice and rain across a huge swath of the nation. A high wind warning has been issued for parts of Georgia, including right here in Atlanta.

In the Carolinas, the utility, Duke Energy, expects about 750,000 homes and businesses to lose power over the next two days. Meanwhile, North Carolina's government deploying more than 200 National Guard soldiers to assist with storm response.



HOLMES: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back find out why more than 100 million vaccines were rejected by the countries who need it the most. That's after the break.





HOLMES: Turning to the pandemic now, more than 100 million doses of COVID vaccine were rejected last month by poorer nations, primarily because the doses were close to expiration. In recent months, richer nations have made more doses available as their own populations have been fully vaccinated.

But the increased supply caught many recipients unprepared. And it really demonstrates the difficulties in vaccinating the world's population, despite growing supplies of shots.

Joining me now is Etleva Kadilli, the director of UNICEF Supply Division.

Thanks for being with us. Before we talk about the challenges, I quickly wanted you to talk about a win, what's happened in Rwanda in terms of deliveries of vaccines, real quick, then we'll move on to the other.

ETLEVA KADILLI, DIRECTOR, UNICEF SUPPLY DIVISION: Yes, absolutely. We are so thankful to this great milestone yesterday, a shipment of 1.1 million doses of vaccines to Rwanda landed, which actually marks the billionth dose supplied via COVAX.

As you know, COVAX is leading really the largest vaccine procurement operation in history. Really, it's more than 144 countries around the world that are being supplied. And we are very grateful for the support of donors to achieve this.

HOLMES: That is a remarkable milestone.

I wanted to ask you, to clear up, there are reports last month, poorer nations rejected more than 100 million doses of vaccines, mainly due to expiry dates and storage issues.

What is the big issue here?

How much of a challenge are things like that?

KADILLI: Yes, yes. So as I said, this is really historical operation and there are many challenges. With the support of donors, UNICEF and COVAX partners have really accelerated the rollout of vaccines.

And we have seen that only in the month of December, we had delivered more than 330 million doses to over 70 countries. So this doesn't come without challenges. And truly, it's remarkable. Even December alone is a remarkable month.

But some countries have declined to receive the doses because -- especially because of the short vaccine shelf life. And we have seen this throughout the months and the limited capacity, given the sheer volume of supply available in the month of December alone.

And so they're encountering a lot of difficulties. So this was -- but also, Michael, to explain that this is a normal process of allocation. This is a normal process that countries have to go through acceptance and also, we actually take the doses that are allocated -- or, let's say, declined -- to other countries as well. So this is a process of al allocation.

HOLMES: In Africa, there are significant issues with hesitancy or complacency, people just not wanting the shots or not caring enough. How do you combat those challenges?

KADILLI: Right. So we have seen vaccine hesitancy around the world. So I think a lot of work is happening currently on the ground from UNICEF partners, COVAX partners. There is a lot of work with communities, with social listening. So there is actually a lot of acceptance.

We are working actually to hear what is it that the communities are hearing and really responding to that potential vaccine hesitancy and so on.

But, Michael, let me tell you that the governments on the ground are all really doing a fantastic, fabulous job. Also with our actions, you know, governments showing their acceptance and giving that role model, if I can say, to the communities and to people.

HOLMES: Right. Even so, according to the U.N. and the WHO, I think it's still less than 10 percent of all people in Africa, eligible people, have received a dose, leaving huge parts of the world unvaccinated in a pandemic where variants are such a threat. That is a huge issue. Explain why the rest of the world should care about that.

KADILLI: Absolutely. I think this is a reminder that, especially as we're seeing with Omicron.


KADILLI: It is absolutely a reminder that we have said from the beginning of this pandemic, until everyone is safe, no one is safe. And we'll see more variants circulating unless and until we have the coverage, increased coverage, of vaccination around the world.

And this critical milestone of 1 billion doses, it's a fantastic and very important one. But it's also a reminder that there is way much more work that we altogether have to do to really increase the coverage that you are referring to, to protect the health workers, to protect the social workers, to protect the health system so that we can bring the services back.

But also, we want children to go back to school, Michael. We have so many children out of school. And it is so important that the only way to defeat this outbreak, it is actually by solidarity and increasing coverage around the world.

HOLMES: Congratulations on the work you do. There are many challenges and hopefully they will be met, because that is in the interests of all of us. Etleva Kadilli, thank you so much, appreciate it.

KADILLI: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right. We want to recap the two top breaking stories we've been following for the last few hours, really.

In Australia, tennis star Novak Djokovic has lost his deportation appeal. He was hoping to stay in the country to defend his title in the Australian Open tennis tournament, which starts on Monday. But a federal court ultimately sided with the immigration minister's decision to revoke Djokovic's visa.

Wouldn't touch it, wouldn't go there, didn't want to overrule a visa decision. The minister said he was concerned the unvaccinated star's presence could spur a rise in anti-vaccine sentiment.

In Texas, hostages held for 10 hours at a synagogue near Ft. Worth have been rescued alive and safe. Officials say the hostage-taker is dead.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN. Paula Newton with more CNN NEWSROOM next.