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Judges to consider Abu Qatada appeal next week

Judges at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will meet next week to consider whether the Jordanian cleric Abu Qatada can appeal against deportation from Britain.

A panel of five judges will meet on Wednesday to decide whether the case should be referred to the Grand Chamber, the court's highest body. But they may not reach their final decision then and, even if they do, they may not announce it until later, a Council of Europe spokesman said.

Abu Qatada's last-minute appeal prompted a row with the Home Secretary, Theresa May, over whether the three-month appeal deadline from the original court ruling on 17 January expired on the night of 16 or 17 April.

The judges are unlikely ever to reveal whether or not Ms May was right to say that Abu Qatada's appeal was made too late. They do not usually disclose any of the reasons for their decisions. Instead, they are expected to simply announce whether or not the appeal against deportation can go ahead.

Repeated failed attempts by UK governments over the past 10 years to deport the radical cleric have cost £825,000 in legal fees. And the Immigration minister Damian Green admitted bill would continue to grow.