Clapton man to appear in Istanbul court accused of terrorism offences

Children from Millfields Community School cheer up as they raise around 1,500 pounds to help poor pe

Children from Millfields Community School cheer up as they raise around 1,500 pounds to help poor people in the Syrian civil war. - Credit: Archant

A Clapton man is set to appear in a Turkish court today accused of being a member of terrorist groups in Syria.

General view of Palm 2 in Clapton

General view of Palm 2 in Clapton - Credit: Archant

Marcus Solak, or Deniz, is well known in the area for working in his family’s shop Palm 2, which his father Abdullah has run for 20 years.

He was one of four Britons arrested during a raid at an Istanbul address in November, along with Aine Davis from Hammersmith, who has been exposed as one of the Isis “Beatles”.

Solak, 32, moved to Turkey in 2014 and his family, many of whom have flown out to Istanbul for the hearing, believe he was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Cousin Suleyman Solak, 24, who also works at Palm 2, told the Gazette the family had been in constant communication with him.

Deniz Solak talks about his work at an Islamic schools project in 2013

Deniz Solak talks about his work at an Islamic schools project in 2013 - Credit: Archant

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He said: “He’s calm, I’m sure it’s hard for him because no one wants to be locked up but he’s doing alright.

“He was just going out to Syria to help the people. No one else from the family ever went to help them but Deniz did.

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“He was staying with friends from England [when he was arrested], helping them out because he speaks Turkish.”

Suleyman said customers had been asking about his cousin, who had worked at Palm 2 since he was young and would “chat to anyone”.

“He didn’t care if you were black, Muslim, anyone,” he said.

But Suleyman said Solak, who was into boxing and mixed martial arts, “got into drugs” and was nearly killed seven years ago on a night out, leading him to change his life. He started volunteering with Aid Convoy, a now-controversial Hackney charity set up by preacher Usman Ali. Ali was banned for life from a mosque in Woolwich after allegedly showing children footage of the 9/11 attacks and proclaiming “God is great”.

In December 2012, members of Aid Convoy – formally called Aid Convoy 2 Syria – were stopped at Dover and £40,000 in cash seized. That sparked a joint investigation by police and the Charity Commission into where the money was going.

A spokeswoman for the commission told the Gazette the statutory inquiry was still going on, adding the probe was related to the “end use of charitable funds, and to determine whether there has been any mismanagement or misconduct on behalf of the charity trustees.”

Ali stepped down from Aid Convoy in August 2013, though the charity is still operating with a collection address at the Post Office in Brooke Road, Upper Clapton, and still has a collection box at Palm 2.

The Dover seizure is likely to have included £1,400 raised for Aid Convoy by pupils at Millfields Community School in nearby Hilsea Street. Head Jane Betsworth said the fundraiser, covered in the Gazette at the time, was done in good faith because kids wanted to help Syrian children. Aid Convoy did not respond to a request for comment.

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