In Lowell, Massachusetts, a 22-year-old Syrian refugee, Emad Hasso, has been arrested after being accused of inappropriately touching a 13-year-old girl at a public swimming pool. Hasso has been in the United States only two months.

On Friday, Hasso was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail by the Lowell District Court after pleading not guilty to one count of indecent assault and battery on a child under 16. Hasso spoke through an interpreter.

Prosecutor Sam Miller reported on Thursday the 13-year-old girl said a man approached her, touched her upper thigh and asked her age. The girl told him she was too young for him and walked away. Hasso then allegedly followed the girl around the pool. While swimming, he again approached her, touched her upper thigh and asked her age. Miller said the girl responded that she was a “little kid, leave me alone.” At that point other people at the pool, including the lifeguard, saw some of the interaction between Hasso and the alleged victim and intervened.

Defense attorney William Kittredge reports Hasso speaks little English, and he receives assistance from the International Institute of New England, a nonprofit group which offers resources and information to immigrants and refugees. The organization has an office in Lowell, which is 25 miles north of Boston.

Hasso told Kittredge he may have “accidentally bumped” the girl while swimming in the pool, but denies he inappropriately touched her or spoke to her.

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