THE York soldier whose one-man rebellion against the conflict in Afghanistan could send him to jail says he is glad he has sparked a fresh debate on the issue.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton is facing a court martial after going AWOL from the British Army when he refused to return to the war-torn country – and has handed in a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling for troops serving there to be brought home.

His stand – which leaves a potential two-year spell in a civilian prison hanging over him – has split opinion in his home city, with some readers of The Press applauding his defiance while others say he should have continued to do his duty.

But the married 27-year-old, who is from New Earswick and spent much of his teenage life in Ryedale, insists he does not mind people opposing his views as long as it keeps the Afghan issue in the spotlight.

“I always expected to divide opinion and I understood it would happen,” said Lance Corporal Glenton, of the Royal Logistics Corps.

“I welcome the debate and appreciate some people don’t agree with me. But at the end of the day, what I’m doing is what I feel I have to do and the positive thing is that the whole Afghanistan issue is being discussed – there are places in the world where people don’t get the chance to do this.

“Although I’m a private and self-contained man, I feel it’s come to me to do this and the response has been fantastic. I’ve had so much support from random people who’ve called me or sent me e-mails or just come up and talked to me to say they understand my reasons, and that’s very heartening.”

He admits he finds the prospect of the court martial “daunting”, especially having only married his wife Clare in May.

But he says: “Although I’m obviously concerned about what might happen, as anybody would be, because of the knock-on effect on my family and friends, I have to stand by my convictions.

“I still believe the Army is a fantastic organisation, but the Government lacks the will to do what is right in Afghanistan.”

The North Yorkshire branch of the Royal British Legion said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on Lance Corporal Glenton’s views due to the impending court martial.

Waiting two-and-a-half years

LANCE Corporal Glenton said he waited two-and-a-half years to display his public opposition to the Afghan conflict because of the “soul-searching” involved.

He went AWOL from the Army in 2007 and says he had to dig deep to find the strength to openly protest about the situation.

“It took a long time and a lot of support from my wife Clare to get to this point,” he said. “When I came away from the Army, I was a bit of a mess. I had put a lot of trust in it and it was a very hard period for me, so it took a lot of time to readjust.

“I had to take a step back and do a lot of soul-searching – I loved the Army, so it was very difficult for me to do this. But I have had a lot of support from a lot of people, especially recently.”