The Court of Appeal has ruled against former UK soldier Joe Glenton, who was sentenced to nine months imprisonment after refusing to fight in Afghanistan. Outside the court, anti-war campaigners insisted that Glenton was being punished for following his conscience.
Glenton's case has attracted renewed controversy in recent days, following allegations of ill-treatment in military prison.
The former lance corporal, 27, was convicted of going “absent without leave” by a military court in March, after the prosecution dropped the charge of “desertion”, which carries up to ten years imprisonment. There were suggestions that the authorities wished to avoid a drawn-out and controversial trial.
The Court of Appeal has upheld the military court's sentence, ruling that it was neither excessive nor wrong in principle.
Although Glenton joined the army in 2004, his view changed after fighting in Afghanistan for seven months. In 2007, he refused orders to re-deploy to the country. He later addressed a major anti-war rally in London.
Repeating his story in court this week, Glenton said that he had been called a “coward” and a “malingerer” by military superiors after telling them that he was against returning to Afghanistan. Glenton has also developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But the appeal judges declared that Glenton's PTSD was not serious enough to justify his refusal to return to Afghanistan. His lawyer, John Tipple said that, “To hear the court re-diagnose Joe's condition was absolutely sickening”.
Tipple also accused the military authorities of subjecting Glenton to “cruel and degrading treatment” in prison. They say he has been forced to sleep under dirty bedding and to wear boots, despite having broken his toe. He appears to have received no treatment for PTSD since entering the prison, contrary to the assurances of the military court that sentenced him in March.
Joe Glenton's mother, Sue Glenton, said that she was “seriously concerned” for her son's welfare. She accused the military prison of “bullying and victimisation”.
Tipple pledged to challenge the legality of his client's treatment, which he described as “from the nineteenth century, not the twenty-first”.
Reacting to the appeal judgment, the Stop the War Coalition insisted that, “There are many soldiers in a similar position to Joe Glenton, morally opposed to the war in Afghanistan and wanting to speak out”.
They described the ruling as “an attempt by judges and army officials to ensure soldiers are discouraged from expressing dissent by making an example of Joe”.