York & North Yorkshire

Anti-war soldier Joe Glenton in medal return protest

A former soldier who was jailed for refusing to fight in Afghanistan has handed back a medal in protest at Britain's involvement in the war.

Joe Glenton, 27, from York, served six months in a military jail after he admitted going absent without leave. He was released in July.

Mr Glenton handed over his Veteran's Badge to 10 Downing Street earlier.

He said: "It's really important to me to make this protest, this symbolic gesture."

Speaking before giving back his medal, Mr Glenton said: "I've been in exile and prison for raising my views and I looked at it and thought rather than having it gather dust here, I'll take it and give it back to them... I think it is a powerful gesture."

Mr Glenton, who was based at Dalton Barracks in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, said British troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan now, not within five years as Prime Minister David Cameron hopes.

He said: "There's a real up-swell of awareness now among military families and among the military, and among the people in this country, that this conflict is, has kind of turned into a face-saving exercise and that's why it's being dragged out.

"This is a majority opinion, 70% of people in this country want withdrawal, whatever their background, that's across the board whatever their politics are, because this is an expensive, messy, gory face-saving exercise and that's quite clear to people."

Relatives' letter

The Veterans' Badge is available to all former armed forces personnel and was launched in 2004 to raise the profile of veterans.

Mr Glenton was with relatives of other soldiers, who are members of the Military Families Against The War campaign group, at Downing Street.

They also delivered a letter to Mr Cameron calling for the government to bring British troops home from Afghanistan.

Joe Glenton handing over his medal to Downing Street
Mr Glenton said handing over his medals was a "symbolic protest"

Mr Glenton served one tour of duty in Afghanistan but deserted from the Army when he was ordered to return for a second tour.

He now campaigns against war and is a student at Leeds Metropolitan University.

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Cameron would not be in Downing Street on Friday to meet Mr Glenton.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Once individuals leave the armed forces, what they choose to do with their medals is a matter for them."

He said Britain, along with forces from 48 nations, were in Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaeda (AQ) from using Afghan territory to plot and launch terror attacks.

"The Afghans are not yet capable of securing their own territory, and without this presence of international forces, AQ would return," he said.

"And that would mean the threat of terrorism to the UK and elsewhere coming from this region would rise again."

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