Abdallah Mohammed, whom friends say his name is Mamadou Camara, was killed by three Detention Services officers while in their custody.
Additional reporting by Karl Stagno-Navarra
A 32-year-old Mali national who was beaten to death by three officers of the army's Detention Services Unit, was allegedly mentally ill but was not referred to Mount Carmel hospital, friends have told MaltaToday.
Abdallah Mohammed, who friends insist his name is Mamadou Camara and was known by the nickname Zoto, had escaped from Safi detention centre in 2009 and spent three years drifting around doing construction jobs.
Over the years, he lived in several villages with his friends, before developing what one source said were mental problems.
"Mamadou was always planning to return to detention so that he could do the full term and then be released and get an identity card number, which he wanted," one source said, claiming Mohammed needed an ID card number to be able to have access to public services.
According to the same source, Mohammed checked in at Floriana health centre to seek assistance on Saturday afternoon after friends were concerned that he might need treatment for his mental ailments.
"His friends told me the doctor could not refer him to Mount Carmel without an identity card, so he instead called the police to take him to the detention centre so that they refer him back to the psychiatrist," the source said.
According to the Detention Services Unit, Mohammed was take to Safi detention centre on Friday and then returned to Floriana centre once more to be seen by a psychiatrist. On being taken back to Safi he managed to escape and recaptured.
Police sources who spoke to MaltaToday said Mohammed was intercepted in Safi village by a detention officer who kicked him to the ground. The injuries included damage to his groin and chest.
Mohammed may have died on the spot with a fatal blow, put into the van and then had tight-straps applied to his wrists.
An AFM Sergeant, a Lance Bombardier and a Private were remanded in custody after pleading not guilty to the long list of charges compiled by Inspector Keith Arnaud from the Police homicide department.
Clive Cuschieri, 29 of Paola and Mark Anthony Dimech 44 of Gzira were charged with murdering Abdalla Mohammed, 32, causing him serious injury and committing a crime they were all duty bound to prevent.
The two cried as the charges were read out, and turned to their families who were present inside the court room throughout the proceedings.
Private Gordon Pickard, 35 of Zabbar, was accused of perverting the course of justice.
Lawyer Franco Debono, who appeared for Cuschieri, claimed that the murder charge imposed on his client was excessive, and distorted the fact that all three accused had families and had gone out for a normal day's work.
His colleague, Edward Gatt, who appeared for Mark Anthony Dimech argued that the police had slapped such a heavy charge on his client to "satisfy the media's thirst", while lawyer Mark Busuttil said that his client Gordon Pickard did absolutely nothing, except for being in the Detention Van.
Prosecutor Inspector Keith Arnoud responded to the lawyer's claims explaining that the police were "nobody's puppets" adding that investigators had spent some 17 hours on the case and never looked at what the media said.
The seriousness of the incident elicited concerns by all political parties, while the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said the incident signalled the need for a comprehensive review of Malta's detention policy.
"The prevailing policy framework dates from 2005 - a time when Malta had much less experience with managing the arrival of asylum seekers. Since then, court decisions and multiple assessments by international bodies have confirmed the need to address various aspects of the detention system," UNHCR representative Jon Hoisaeter said.
"In UNHCR's view, Malta should explore alternatives to the current detention arrangements. Whatever form such a system review could take, it should aim to urgently solve several key problems that can place asylum seekers and staff at risk."