Refugee advocate admits to molesting child, but where is he?

Hussein Ali, 28, a refugee himself, failed to show up for a court appearance on Thursday.

EVERETT — A south Everett man who often has served as a spokesman for Syrian refugees living around Puget Sound is now wanted on an arrest warrant in a child molestation case, his bail set at $2.5 million.

Hussein S. Ali, 28, was a no-show Thursday in Snohomish County Superior Court. He was to appear at a hearing scheduled to formalize his conviction and determine his sentence on two counts of first-degree child molestation involving a young girl.

Prosecutors and state corrections officials were recommending that he be sent to prison for more than seven years. An attorney for Ali was trying to make a case for a shorter prison term and sexual deviancy treatment, court papers show.

Ali earlier had admitted that he spent years molesting the girl whose family had extended him trust. She was 9 when the abuse began. He was 23, court papers say.

Ali had grown up in a camp for Palestinian refugees near Damascus, Syria. He immigrated to the U.S. in 2010, attended college, got married and has been working as an engineer for aerospace companies.

He also has been an outspoken, articulate advocate for opening the doors to refugees from war-torn Syria, including members of his own family. He’s met with lawmakers and human rights activists and repeatedly appeared in stories on television, online and in print, including The Daily Herald.

The molestation charges came after the girl, now in her mid-teens, reported to a school counselor what had happened to her over the years.

Ali initially denied any wrongdoing, but ultimately confessed, court papers show. In December, he agreed to a bench trail, essentially leaving it to a judge to decide his guilt based on a review of investigative records in the case.

That includes Ali’s confession, which was filed with the court in anticipation of sentencing Thursday.

“I had no excuse and should have known better,” he wrote. “I asked myself how can I live knowing that I have done this? I also asked myself: what do I do to mend what has been broken?”

The girl and her family were in court Thursday. So were three young men who said they were related to Ali. They told the defendant’s attorney, Brad Meryhew of Seattle, that they had no idea where he was and hadn’t seen him for several days.

“He has absented himself on his own doing,” deputy prosecutor Justin Harleman said.

He asked Judge Joseph Wilson to consider moving ahead without Ali. Meryhew said that would have required the court to first rule that his client had deliberately evaded the hearing. He suggested there wasn’t sufficient evidence.

The case is further complicated because the court had not yet presented its formal findings from the bench trial, the judge was told.

Wilson said he wasn’t taking action Thursday. He authorized an arrest warrant for Ali and set bail at $2.5 million.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; Twitter: @snorthnews.

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