San Francisco, Sep 12: A US military commander dropped murder charges today against a US Marine accused last month of killing an unarmed prisoner in Iraq. Sgt. Jermaine Nelson had faced charges of killing a man detained in a November 2004 search of a home in Falluja in which weapons were found.
In a statement issued from Camp Pendleton in Southern California, the Marine Corps said Lt. Gen. James Mattis, commander of US Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, had dismissed the charges.
''Lt. Gen. Mattis dismissed the charges so he could evaluate the ongoing Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation and determine appropriate action as the new consolidated disposition authority for the case,'' the Marines said. Nelson could still face charges if new evidence related to the case emerges, a Marine spokesman said.
The case was one of series of incidents in which the US armed forces are alleged to have committed crimes in Iraq, sparking intensified global criticism over the US war. Nelson's squad leader, Jose Luis Nazario, still faces criminal charges in the Falluja incident, but since he has left the military he faces voluntary manslaughter charges in federal court.
''He's been sort of left out to dry,'' Applegate said in contrasting his client to Nelson. ''I find it somewhat unjust.'' Nazario and other Marines detained four men while searching a house from which they had earlier taken fire, according to the complaint filed with the US District Court in Central California.
The complaint said Nazario killed one of the unarmed men who was lying on his back on the floor. ''Who else wants to kill these guys, because I don't want to do it all myself,'' Nazario then said, according to the charges.
Both Nelson and Nazario served with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. Some members of the same unit are facing charges over the killing of 24 civilians in a different incident in Haditha, Iraq.