Morning Star, November 11, 2009
Soldier faces 10 years for decision to speak out against war
Malalai Joya: "When there is no justice, it is better for honest people to go even to jail rather than go to war."
Anti-war Lance Corporal Joe Glenton has been arrested and faces 10 years in jail for bravely honouring his moral responsibility to speak out against the illegal occupation of Afghanistan.
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton was arrested for refusing to return to Afghanistan, for leading an anti-war demonstration and for speaking to the media in defiance of orders. He is being held in an army jail while he awaits trial for five charges which carry a sentence of up to 10 years.
The serving soldier faces up to seven charges after he defied orders to address 10,000 demonstrators last month in Trafalgar Square and told the media that he did not believe the war was legitimate or in the nation's interest.
He became the first serving soldier since the start of the Afghan occupation to join an anti-war march.
Despite receiving direct orders from his commanding officer not to speak to the media, L/Cpl Glenton defied them - instead observing army rules which morally oblige soldiers to "to speak out against injustice and illegality," his caseworker John Tipple told the Morning Star.
L/Cpl Glenton also faces criminal charges for desertion - for which he could serve up to four years - because he refused to return to Afghanistan.
During last month's rally he told the crowd he could not justify "in good conscience" being part of the "great wrongs" perpetrated in the country which he witnessed during his service.
Stop the War Coalition has pledged to fight tooth and nail for his immediate release and have called a protest on Thursday at 5pm outside the Ministry of Defence, Whitehall. A petition has also been launched calling for his freedom.
StWC convenor Lindsey German accused the Establishment of "persecuting" L/Cpl Glenton because of his determined stance against the war.
His mother Sue Glenton has spoken out in defence of her son.
She said: "You've got government ministers, army commanders and MPs speaking every day in support of the war. What's so scary about a lance corporal having his say for what he thinks is right?"
L/Cpl Glenton is currently being held in remand in the Glasshouse military training corrective centre in Colchester.
A Stop the War Coalition spokesman said: "L/Cpl Glenton has been overwhelmed by expressions of support from fellow soldiers for his stance against the war. They tell him that he's saying what many of them think; that the Afghan war is futile and unwinnable."
But Mr Tipple said the authorities were pressurising those defending his actions not to speak to the media and were keeping a close watch on what they said.
At the rally, L/Cpl Glenton set out the reasons behind his decision to join the campaign to bring the troops home.
"The occupation in Afghanistan is at best dubious in terms of legality and morality," he declared.
"The occupation of a country like that, regime change, these things are all illegal.
"I can't be involved in it on that basis and, not only that, I am also bound to try and stop it, try and change things."
Despite the threat of prison, he added that he would not be silenced.
"People keep telling me I'm brave but I don't feel brave at all - I feel fairly terrified. It's not going to stop me, I'm going to keep going," he said.
"I'll keep talking and doing what I think is right. I have to or I'll have to live with this forever if I don't."
Malalai Joya, the Afghan MP who has been called "the bravest woman in Afghanistan" and who has received numerous international awards for her defence of human rights, sent a message of support to Mr Glenton on Wednesday.
She wrote: "Dear Joe, Stay strong! The majority of the Afghan people are with you and we respect and admire the stand you have taken.
"When there is no justice, it is better for honest people to go even to jail rather than go to war. Down with the occupation. I send you my warmest greetings and solidarity."
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