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Deportation imminent for Hidanovic

Mevludin Hidanovic

Mevludin Hidanovic's plea for a pardon failed Tuesday and he now faces deportation to Bosnia-Herzegovina or Germany.

After discussion and deliberation lasting less than five minutes, the state Pardon Advisory Board voted unanimously Tuesday to deny the Fargo man an unconditional pardon - the only thing that can prevent him being deported.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services plans deportation on or before March 5, according to a board document.

Hidanovic, 31, came to Fargo in 1999 from then war-torn Bosnia. He was convicted by a jury in January 2007 of engaging in a riot armed with a weapon during the 2006 Red River Valley Fair.

The weapon was a baseball bat.

He was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by five years of probation. As soon as he reached the end of his incarceration, in July 2008, immigration officials took him into custody and began deportation proceedings.

Hidanovic's wife, Chanda, who has been an outspoken and passionate champion of her husband's innocence and court appeals, would not comment after board meeting, said a woman who answered Chanda Hidanovic's phone.

"She's having a nervous breakdown right now," said the friend, who did not identify herself. "She's very, very, very upset."

"Feel free to put that in (the newspaper)."

The board met in the Capitol.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, one of the five board members, noted Hidanovic's felony conviction for rioting that triggered immigration authorities' deportation order is not an isolated incident. Hidanovic's record includes several other convictions for menacing and assault, which the board's clerk, Warren Emmer, said related to domestic violence incidents "with a prior spouse."

In order to avoid deportation, Emmer and Stenehjem said, Hidanovic needed a full and complete pardon from Gov. John Hoeven covering all of the convictions. That's too much to ask, Stenehjem said.

Board Chairman Duane DeKrey of Pettibone, who's also a legislator, said he was struck by Hidanovic's several "write-ups" for misbehavior while in the James River Correctional Center, including violating visiting and mail regulations, destruction of property, disobeying orders, lying during chemical dependency assessment and not performing assigned duties.

DeKrey suggested the board go into executive session to discuss a victim's statement, but Stenehjem and board member Beverly Adams of Fargo said they didn't think it necessary; they had more than enough information already. Adams made the motion to deny a pardon and Stenehjem seconded it.

Assistant Cass County State's Attorney Mark Boening, who had prosecuted Hidanovic, wrote the board asking it to deny the pardon, saying "Hidanovic simply doesn't like the jury's verdict and Judge (Wade) Webb's sentence."

In an interview before the meeting, Chanda Hidanovic said she had already lost hope for her husband's case and was "expecting another letdown." She said she is preparing to go with her husband back to Bosnia and has obtained a passport. Their children will remain with relatives in the Fargo area.