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Serving four months in a military prison for refusing to fight in Afghanistan is "a badge of honour", the former British army lance corporal Joe Glenton said in his first public appearance since being released from prison.

The peace soldier, said: "It's been a year since I spoke - it's amazing to be back this year has been the most challenging of my life having served a prison sentence. I would serve the sentence again. In the present climate, I consider it badge of honour to serve a prison sentence.

"I found resisting the war empowering. There were times when it was terrifying and others when it was almost therapeutic.

"Prison is about small victories. The fact 200 letters a day clogged up the military mail system was a victory.

"I have more in common with the people of Afghanistan than with my own political and military leaders. The enemy is not the person in front of you with a gun but the person behind you and above you telling you to pull the trigger.

"I do believe with the revelations today - more confirmation than revelation - has shown the wheels really have come off the military bandwagon. Support for the war and support for soldiers is not the same - it's entirely different."

He added: "There are boys who will never get the sand of Iraq and Afghanistan out of there lives. To support the soldiers you should bring them home."

The meeting was held on the day thousands of documents were leaked to Wikileaks revealing the existence of a secret coalition military death squad in Afghanistan and also showing to true levels of civilian deaths.

The European Union has also today placed sanctions on the Islamic republic of Iran while failing to punish Israel for the death of 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza up to December 2008 and the attack of the Gaza Flotilla.

Tony Benn, president of the Stop the War Coalition, said: "For a peson to go to prison rather than fight a war is a formidable personal sacrifice and for that reason we should listen to what he has to say.

"The shift of opinion among the public is the reason David Cameron in the UK and Obama in the US are now talking about withdrawal. We are pushing at an open door and we must continue to press our case."

He added: "Looking at the Middle East they want to be free of Western and external occupation. We have to spread that message and we are talking to people who want to listen. People know this war is unwinnable abbeys casualties of British troops and in Afghanistan must end."

Yasmin Khan, senior campaigner for the anti-poverty charity War on Want, said more than £8billion had been spent on the war in Afghanistan since 2001.

She added: "War does not bring development or security. A key role for the anti-war movement now at the time of then recession is to argue that cuts to public services should not take place when we are funding war.

"The use of private armies is another reason why we should oppose this war. We are campaigning for proper regulation - you need a licence to watch television but not to run a private army.

"Last year, 2009, has been the bloodiest year in terms of civilian deaths as the violence is escalating. We must personally vouch to bring five extra people the next mobilisation, which is in November."

Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition told a capacity audience at the Conway Hall in London's Holborn that she wanted to personally thank Glenton for his protest.

"This is one of the most horrific wars we have seen in my lifetime. Des Brown said the war in Afghanistan was the most noble cause of ten20th century but the Wikileaks information shows this is the opposite of a noble war. There are more civilian deaths than we ever heard of, snatch squads and terrorist attacks by the SAS.

"Obama has killed more people in Pakistan in the last year than Israel killed in Gaza in late 2008. Which British minister will tell the families of the soldiers who died exactly what they died for - a colonial war as part of a colonial project which has gone on for 200 years."

"How can it be that if you reveal the bombing of a wedding party or shot at innocent civilians make lives of soldiers more dangerous? Surely the truth will lead to an honest assessment and the withdrawal of troops."

Comedian Mark Steel also spoke at the event. He said: "The reasons for the war every day. If there is an excuse it should be the same decrepit lie they tell. Afghanistan was named by Transparency International the second must corrupt country in the world ... They would have won if only they had bribed the right judges.

"The idea of terrorism as a justification is so threadbare when the 7/7 bombers came from Leeds - are they next."

He added: "Joe Glenton has been jailed for refusing to fight in a war. What does this mean? If you tell the truth to stop a war you will be put in jail. If you lie to start a war then you will be forced to spend five minutes before an inquiry before making millions touring the world speaking."

Jeremy Corbyn closed the evening by commending the "decency, humanity and honesty - and perception about what the war in Afghanistan is really about" shown by Glenton in his refusal to serve.

He added: "This war cannot go on this war has to stop. They know this war is unsustainable and this war is wrong and it is spilling into country after country.

"We have not only spent billions on it and damaged our public services but also damaged our own civil rights. It is our lives, or freedom which has been damaged, not just the people in Afghanistan."

The Stop the War Coalition is holding a national demonstration in London on November 20 this year against the Nato conference in Lisbon. German added: "We know we can mobalise thousands of people on to the street and that is the job we have to do now."


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