Re-arrest of "deserter" sparks civil liberties fears

By staff writers
November 12, 2009

A British soldier who refused to return to Afghanistan after developing a principled opposition to the war, has been re-arrested and charged with five more offences following his part in an anti-war demonstration.

While details of the charges remain unclear, the re-arrest of Joe Glenton has raised fears over the abuse of civil liberties, and in particular the freedom to protest.

Glenton participated in an anti-war protest in London on 24 October. It is thought that the charges brought in the light of this include “refusal to obey a lawful order” and speaking to the media without permission.

He already faces up to four years in prison if found guilty of 'desertion' and it is reported that the new charges could bring up to ten years on top of that.

UK law allows the armed forces to require their employees to sign contracts that commit them to several years' work, with no recognition of the right to give notice and leave, as is required of almost every other employer.

“This is about the persecution of a soldier who believes in telling the truth in accordance with his conscience,” said Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition, “He is saying what the majority of the population believe — that this war is unwinnable and immoral.”

Further evidence of public opposition to war emerged yesterday (11 November), with a poll in the Independent showing that only 21 per cent of the population believe that the presence of British troops in Afghanistan is decreasing the threat of terrorism in the UK. In contrast, 46 per cent believe that the troops' presence is in reality increasing the threat.

The news is likely to come as a blow to both government and opposition politicians who have been relying on national security arguments as the main justification for the war.

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