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Issue #1436      18 November 2009

Soldier faces 10 years for speaking out against war

BRITAIN: 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. 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.

Joe Glenton has become the first serving member of the military to attend an anti-war demonstration since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

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, Lance Corporal Glenton defied them – instead observing army rules which morally oblige soldiers “to speak out against injustice and illegality,” his caseworker John Tipple told the Morning Star.

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. A petition has also been launched calling for his freedom.

Stop the War Coalition convenor Lindsey German accused the establishment of “persecuting” 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?”

Lance Corporal Glenton is currently being held in remand in the Glasshouse military training corrective centre in Colchester.

A Stop the War Coalition spokesman said: “Lance Corporal 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, 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 Glenton.

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.”

Morning Star

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