Updated November 21 

The family of a 25-year-old man who was found dead in a prison cell on Thursday morning are demanding answers, just five weeks before he was meant to be released.

The victim has been identified as Ihtisham Ihtisham, a Pakistani national who was jailed for six months carrying forged asylum papers.

Corradino Correctional Facility has not yet explained how a healthy 25-year-old man with "no pre-existing medical conditions" died in his sleep.

Over the past two years, at least 10 deaths were recorded at CCF.

Jacques Grima, the lawyer engaged by Ihtisham after his sentencing in June, told Times of Malta that his brother's inquiries about the death have so far fallen on deaf ears.

“We feel it is prudent to wait for the conclusions of the inquiry before assessing the family's position. However, we reiterate that Ihtisham's close relatives are still bewildered by the fact that the authorities failed to provide them with any information pertaining to their family member's death,” Grima said.

The lawyer added that the family was "100% sure" that Ihtisham was not suffering from any pre-existing medical conditions.

He said he had managed to figure out the identity of his client despite the scant information that was given to media outlets when the death was announced.

“I called CCF as soon as I saw the media reports and asked to be put in touch with him straight away. I had to insist because I was calling outside of regular phone hours and I thought that something was wrong. A few minutes later, they confirmed it was him,” Grima explained.

“Had I not made the connection and then attempted to verify through a phone call, his family would probably not have been informed about his death."

In a statement issued on Saturday, a CCF official said relatives had not been notified as Ihtisham had not provided their contact details when he was admitted into prison. 

As a result, prison authorities had followed standard procedure and notified the police. In such cases, police contact the consulate of an inmate's home country to try and establish the person's identity and notify relatives, the CCF spokesperson said. 

Ihtisham arrived in Malta last February. According to Grima, the 25-year-old flew to Malta because of limited employment prospects back home.

“He came here for work, chasing a dream. He had managed to obtain forged asylum papers from Italy, which led to his eventual arrest and sentencing in June,” Grima explained, adding that the man had pleaded guilty straight away.

According to his lawyer, Ihtisham was “a soft-spoken, quiet and often very reserved person".

Grima used to communicate with him over the phone, while his brother would act as a physical intermediary between the lawyer and the client.

“Even though I’d never met Ihtisham face-to-face, I could tell he was a good-natured person who meant no harm.”

The man was doing well just a day before his sudden and unexplained death. His lawyer said that his extended family were constantly checking in with him, and that he spoke to his brother almost daily. 

Ihtisham had never flagged any issues with other inmates or prison guards, and his only complaint was about the quality of the food he was being served, he said.

“Other than that, he sounded like he was being treated very well. He was overwhelmed and shocked when he was jailed for six months, because he came here looking for work, not for trouble with the law.

"Eventually, he had resolved to serving his time and going back home to his family to start anew,” Grima said.

He was meant to be released on Christmas day.

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