A Chinese detainee found hanged in his cell had skull fractures, raising questions from his family about the official version of events.
Xing Wangli survived but is in a coma in a prison hospital, Apple Daily reports.
Officials said Xing had tried to commit suicide because he was depressed over his imprisonment.
The head injuries came when his cellmates failed to catch him after they untangled him from a rope which he used to hang himself, they said.
But Xing’s son, who is in exile in Thailand, said his father could not have even contemplated suicide because he was determined to clear his name.
He said the injuries could have been inflicted on him.
Xing had been in and out of prison after he became a human rights activist.
He had been fighting to get justice for his son who was a victim of a 2012 car accident.
On Friday, Xing was sentenced to four years and six months in prison for “picking quarrels” and “provoking troubles” by a court in Xixian, Henan province.
He allegedly tried to hang himself the next day.
The local police department, which did not inform his family about the incident until 10 hours later, said Xing could not get over his sentence.
Xing’s son asked for camera footage of the incident but the request was rejected.
It was the latest controversy involving an activist in China’s notorious prison system.
In 2012, dissident Li Wangyang was found dead in a hospital room in Shaoyang, one year after he was released from prison after a long sentence stemming from the 1989 Tiananmen protests.
Mainland authorities claimed he committed suicide by hanging but the explanation only deepened the mystery surrounding his death.
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