Afghan war unlawful, says 'deserter'

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who was also reduced to the ranks, was sentenced at a military court in Colchester
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who was also reduced to the ranks, was sentenced at a military court in Colchester

A soldier facing court martial over his refusal to serve in Afghanistan is expected to claim in his defence that the war is unlawful.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who appeared in court for a preliminary hearing into his case yesterday, maintains that British soldiers are dying in the interest of American foreign policy and should be brought home.

L/Cpl Glenton, 27, of the Royal Logistic Corps, did not enter a formal plea during proceedings in Wiltshire yesterday, where he was charged with desertion. He had been active in a campaign organised by the Stop the War Coalition and delivered a protest letter to Downing Street. The soldier's counsel, Hugh O'Donoghue, indicated that his client would deny the charge and may call an expert witness to give evidence on the lawfulness of the war.

Prosecutor Gemma Sayer said she would be calling witnesses who were currently serving in Afghanistan and Kuwait and that there may be additional charge connected to the alleged desertion. L/Cpl Glenton is due to return to duties with his regiment at his base in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, where he will be interviewed by the Royal Military police. Having joined the Army in 2004, L/Cpl Glenton, from York, went absent without leave in 2007 before handing himself in after two years and six days. Judge Advocate Alastair McGrigor adjourned the case to 4 September.

Before his court appearance L/Cpl Glenton said: "I always expected to divide opinion and I understood it would happen. I welcome the debate and appreciate some people don't agree with me. But at the end of the day, what I'm doing is what I feel I have to do and the positive thing is that the whole Afghanistan issue is being discussed – there are places in the world where people don't get the chance to do this."

RAF officer Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith was sentenced to eight months in prison in 2007 and fined £20,000 for refusing to serve in Iraq. A handful of other British service personnel were allowed to leave the service after refusing to serve in Iraq.

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