Judges meet next week to decide on Abu Qatada appeal

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Europe’s human rights judges will meet next week to consider whether Jordanian terror suspect Abu Qatada’s appeal should be heard by the court’s Grand Chamber.

A panel of five judges will meet next Wednesday to decide whether the appeal should be heard, 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.

Qatada’s appeal against deportation prompted a row with Home Secretary Theresa May over whether the three-month appeal deadline from the original decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on January 17 expired on the night of April 16 or 17.

The panel of judges are unlikely ever to reveal whether or not Mrs May was right to say that Qatada’s appeal was made too late as they do not usually disclose any of the reasons for their decision.

Instead, they are expected to simply announce whether or not Qatada’s appeal against deportation can go ahead.

Repeated failed attempts by UK governments to deport the radical cleric over the last 10 years have cost nearly £1m in legal fees, figures released this week have revealed.

Immigration Minister Damian Green admitted the bill since 2002 has reached £825,000 and is set to continue to grow.

No figures were given for how much Qatada, described by a judge as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, has received in legal aid over that period.

Qatada, 51, could be freed from Belmarsh high-security jail within weeks if it appears his departure is not imminent and a senior immigration judge grants him bail.

Qatada, who is said to have “wide and high-level support” among extremists, was convicted in his absence in Jordan of involvement with terror attacks in 1998 and faces a retrial in his home country.