Alaskan acquitted of Balkans murder

Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2001

ANCHORAGE - A Macedonian court has acquitted an Anchorage restaurateur of all charges associated with the shooting death of another Anchorage resident in Macedonia last fall.

Officials with the U.S. State Department said a five-judge court returned the verdict Monday in the case against Nick Shabani, owner of Balto's Restaurant in Anchorage.

"We understand the prosecution may appeal that decision," said State Department spokesman Christopher Lamora.

Shabani was accused of killing Matt Mehmedi, 46, on a street in Kicevo. The shooter also wounded Matt Mehmedi's son, Benny Mehmedi, 26, and a third man. The father and his American-born son were visiting the father's homeland.

Benny Mehmedi said in court papers that Shabani was after him because he had an affair with Shabani's wife.

Before waiving extradition and returning voluntarily to be tried in Macedonia, Shabani, 43, said there was no affair, and he denied any role in the attack. He said he was in Alaska on Sept. 27, the day the shooting in Kicevo occurred.

Anchorage attorney Tim Petumenos, who represents Shabani here, said his client could have fought extradition but "wanted to be tried on the merits and always felt he would be acquitted."

Benny Mehmedi went to Macedonia in April and testified at the trial, then returned to Anchorage to await the verdict. Mehmedi owns Capone's Pizza on Spenard Road.

"I'm not surprised," Mehmedi said. "I'm just disappointed."

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