Photo credit Photo Caption lead in Ahmed Balushi (l) and thamer Al Sahahry

Muscat: A young Omani boy sacrificed his private sector job to take his diabetic father’s place in prison. His ailing father was sentenced for not paying a small personal loan while a middle aged man was spending time as he had no money to pay alimony to his wife after divorce.

More intriguing case of time in prison was of a housewife, who for four years stayed behind bars instead of her husband.

These three and 11 others like them were lucky to end their misery and meet their family members during the holy month of Ramadan thanks to a novel initiative by a group of young Omani lawyers.

Talking about the housewife, who opted to go to prison in place of her husband, young lawyer Thamer Bin Saeed Al Shahry told Gulf News: “This lady opted to go to prison instead of her husband because he was the sole bread winner for the family.”

He revealed that the court sent the middle aged Omani to prison for default of less than 700 Omani riyals.

“There was no way family could have raised money to pay up loan that the gentleman owed if he was locked up after the court order,” he explained. Therefore, his wife opted to go to prison so that he can earn and accumulate enough to pay back his debt.

The housewife had taken her husband’s place in the prison for four years and after a three-month parole period she had to go back, if the debt was not cleared.

“We paid up the remaining amount he owed and close the file in the court,” explained Ahmad Al Balushi, another young lawyer.

The young lawyers, backed by the Omani Lawyers Association (OLA), closed altogether 13 files in Muscat and one in northern Oman town of Birka. “There was urgency in Birka case so we included that with the cases in Muscat,” said Thamer without elaborating on cases.

The lawyers declined to name any of the beneficiaries of their humanitarian gesture and requested not to go into details of each case to maintain personal dignity of each of the defaulters.

“These were neither hardboiled criminals nor defaulters by choice,” he said, adding that the OLA had decided from the beginning to help out only ‘needy financial defaulters’, who due to unusual circumstances got into financial disarray. “Sometime debt is beyond their control.

“We have had different teams, including a team that studied all the cases before we took it up with the Public Prosecution and relevant courts,” he said.

The idea of seeking release of economic defaulters was floated by young lawyers like Sausan Bint Yaqoob Al Balushi, Thamer, Ahmad, Rihab Bint Fadhil and others. “First and foremost it was decided to help only ‘needy’ defaulters, who were jailed for petty financial misdemeanours,” clarified Thamer.

To avoid any complications the young lawyers, in consultation with their senior colleagues at the OLA, decided not to touch any bank loan defaulters. “No car loan defaulter was also included in the list,” he stressed.

“Our initial aim was to raise 10,000 Omani riyals [Dh95,078] and seek release of 10 prisoners,” he said, adding that eventually with the support of Al Ahli Bank, other corporate sponsors and a day-long fund raising event last month, they managed to raise 38,000 riyals.

Cock-a-hoop with the success of the initial drive in the capital area, the lawyers are now gearing up to take the campaign to other parts of the country. “We are now coordinating with the courts in Nizwa, Salalah, Sur, Sohar and Ibri to include the other regions as well,” pointed out Ahmad Al Balushi.

The enthusiastic Omani lawyers would like it to take this initiative further but prefer to talk about one step at a time. “For this year we have done so much and continue as we have funds and we get similar wholehearted support next year, will attempt the same once again,” Thamer said.