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5 March 2010, 14:42
An Oxfordshire-based soldier who went missing when he should have been fighting in Afghanistan has been jailed for nine months.
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who used to serve with the Royal Logistics Corps based at Abingdon's Dalton Barracks, was sentenced at a military court in Colchester, Essex, after admitting a charge of going Absent Without Leave (AWOL).
The court martial hearing was told that Glenton, who later campaigned against the conflict, was discovered to be absent on June 11, 2007, when he was due to return to Abingdon.
He was absent for 737 days before handing himself in, prosecutor Group Captain Tim Backer said. He said that the 27-year-old had performed a seven-month tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2006.
When Glenton returned he was ordered to go back to the conflict zone after nine months even though military guidelines suggest soldiers should not be deployed again within 18 months.
Defending Glenton, Nick Wrack told the court that when Glenton raised concerns about going back he suffered bullying. He said the soldier had suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his first stint in the war zone.
"When he first raised with his staff sergeant his reluctance to be deployed again, instead of being dealt with in a sensible way it resulted in the sergeant at the time bullying and intimidating Lance Corporal Glenton," said Mr Wrack.
"He was called a coward and a malingerer. When this information was brought to his commanding officer, the sergeant was spoken to, but this reinforced the bullying."
Glenton, who joined the army in 2004, returned to barracks on June 16, 2009, when he was charged. During his two years and six days awol he went to south east Asia and Australia.
Mr Wrack said: "He was told that the troops' presence in Afghanistan would improve the country, that democracy would be bought and that the position of women would improve. This motivated him to go.
"His experience and reality conflicted with what he had been told. More and more he began to see that the conflict in Afghanistan was wrong. He spoke out about it, perhaps in a bold fashion. He questioned the morality and legality of the war, and spoke publicly about it when he returned."
Glenton, from York, took part in an anti-war protest in October last year.
A spokesman for the Stop The War Coalition said: "Joe Glenton is not the person who should be facing a jail sentence. It should be the politicians who have led us into disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact that they are not brings shame to justice in this country."