A British soldier who faces up to 10 years in jail for speaking out against the war in Afghanistan will go before a military judge this week to discover if he will remain in an army jail while he awaits trial.
In an escalation of the Ministry of Defence’s legal action against him, Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, 27, was arrested and charged last week with five counts of disobeying lawful commands and standing orders in relation to his public opposition to the war expressed at an anti-war rally last month.
He had already been charged with desertion for refusing to return to fight in Afghanistan.
His legal case worker, John Tipple, said the charges cited an interview in The Guardian in which he claimed troops on the ground had been confused about the purpose of their presence as far back as 2006, and that fellow soldiers had supported his cause after he called for a complete withdrawal of troops.
The new charges carry a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment in addition to the three to four years he could face if the desertion charge is upheld.
It has emerged that British public servants at the Defence Ministry are being paid more than £8000 ($14,300) a month to work in Afghanistan, nearly five times as much as some soldiers on the front line.
Ministers said the payouts were justified in part by the fact that some officials were posted to conflict zones.
The ministry said the maximum monthly additional payment for a senior grade official working in a conflict zone was £8250. For more junior officials, it was £6750. The allowances are paid on top of basic salaries.
Army privates are paid between £16,681 and £25,887 a year. Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan for a six-month tour receive a tax-free ”’operational allowance”of £2380 and a Longer Separation Allowance of at least £1194. That means the lowest-paid private in Afghanistan is paid £1687 a month.
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who last week wrote to Gordon Brown explaining why he will not fight, plans to deny the charge of desertion because he believes the conflict is unlawful.
Wearing combat fatigues, Glenton appeared before a judge advocate at the military court centre in Bulford camp, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, for a preliminary hearing.
Glenton spoke only to confirm his name, service number and rank but his counsel, Hugh O’Donoghue, indicated that the 27-year-old, who is now a member of the Stop the War Coalition, would deny desertion when his district court martial takes place later this year.
O’Donoghue said the soldier would be calling an expert on international law to argue against the legality of the operation in Afghanistan. O’Donoghue also said he wanted access to Glenton’s medical records.
I think he has a point. How is fighting in Afghanistan making us safer? I am frustrated that the Government’s evidence about these supposed evil dudes is super secret. We just have to trust them that some super evil guys want to do super evil things to us and they will if we don’t fight now to stop them in some far away land. Seems fishy.