Anti-war soldier faces 10 years in prison

IssueDecember 2009 - January 2010
Feature by Elise Desiderio

A British soldier accused of desertion for refusing to serve in Afghanistan is now being prosecuted for taking part in an anti-war protest, on charges that carry a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. Lance corporal Joe Glenton, 27, of the Royal Logistic Corps, appeared in court on 10 November in Aldershot, Hampshire, facing charges of disobeying a lawful order, as well as his desertion charge. At the end of the hearing, Glenton was imprisoned pending his trial.

Joe Glenton spoke before 5,000 peace protesters on 24 October in London’s Trafalgar Square. “I believe great wrongs have been perpetrated in Afghanistan,” Glenton said to the crowd. “I cannot in good conscience be part of them. I’m bound by law and moral duty to try and stop them.”

In 2007, Glenton allegedly went absent without leave (AWOL) for two years and six days before turning himself in. He refused to return to Afghanistan because he believed the war to be unlawful. “I’m a soldier, and I belong to the profession of arms,” Glenton explained at the Stop the War Coalition protest. “I expected to go to war. But I also expected it would be to defend this country’s interests... and it would be legal and justifiable. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

” The London protest is not the first time Glenton has spoken publicly about his stance against the war in Afghanistan. In July, Glenton hand-delivered a letter to Downing Street addressed to prime minister Gordon Brown. In the letter, he detailed his reasons for refusing to support the war.

“It is my primary concern that the courage and tenacity of my fellow soldiers has become a tool of America’s foreign policy,” Glenton wrote. “I believe this unethical short-changing of such proud men and women has caused immeasurable suffering not only to families of British service personnel who have been killed and injured, but also to the noble people of Afghanistan.”

Family’s support
Glenton, while considered the first British soldier to speak out publicly against the war in Afghanistan, is not going through these proceedings alone. Both his mother and his wife stand by his decision to speak openly despite the charges being brought against him.

“You’ve got government ministers, army commanders and MPs speaking every day in support of the war,” Glenton’s mother Sue said. “What’s so scary about a lance corporal having his say?” “Joe’s just standing up for his beliefs,” wife Claire Glenton told reporters. “And he does have the utmost respect for those soldiers out there in Afghanistan at the moment fighting for a cause that we all believe isn’t worth fighting for.”

What’s next
Glenton faces up to four years in jail for the desertion charges, and up to ten years for taking part in anti-war protests. His trial is expected in January.

Write (cheerful) letters of support to: Joe Glenton, Military Corrective Training Centre, Berechurch Hall Camp, Colchester, Essex CO2 9NU. The Stop The War Coalition have a petition: 020 7801 2768;