updated 10/20/2004 8:05:58 PM ET 2004-10-21T00:05:58

Charges have been dismissed against the former commander of a detention facility where an Iraqi prisoner was dragged by the neck and later died.

Maj. Michael Froeder, a Marine reservist from Pennsylvania, was accused of failing to intervene and provide medical attention to Nagem Sadoon Hatab, 52. An Army pathologist concluded Hatab died from suffocation caused by a broken bone in his throat.

Camp Pendleton’s commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Donovan, made the decision last week to dismiss, without prejudice, charges of dereliction of duty and maltreatment — meaning the charges cannot be refiled.

“After considering all of the evidence, Maj. Gen. Donovan determined the charges were unsubstantiated,” Marine spokeswoman Capt. Juliet Chelkowski said Wednesday. She did not elaborate.

Attorneys who practice military law say such dismissals are unusual. Typically, the commanding officer will evaluate the charges after an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury. Froeder’s Article 32 hearing had been scheduled to start this week.

Froeder’s defense attorney, Daniel K. Hagood, noted there were problems with evidence in the case, but said he did not know the specific reason for the dismissal. He said he provided the base with some information that exonerated his client, but declined to elaborate.

“I don’t think the evidence at the end of the day would show Maj. Froeder was callous or cruel or neglectful of his duties,” Hagood said.

Froeder, 38, currently on active duty at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego, could not be reached for comment.

“He does want to emphasize that he’s a Marine officer and he’s proud to serve his country and he hopes he can be of continued service,” Hagood said.

Eight other Marines were accused in abuses at the detention facility known as Camp Whitehorse last year; charges against all but two were subsequently dropped.

Marine Sgt. Gary Pittman was convicted last month of dereliction of duty and abuse of prisoners in the first court-martial connected with abuses at Camp Whitehorse. He was sentenced to 60 days of hard labor and demoted to private.

The court-martial of Maj. Clarke Paulus, who ran the jail at the facility, is scheduled to start Nov. 1.

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