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Suspicion after 2 deaths in custody

CUTS and wounds were discovered on the bodies of two teenager offenders who died last month while serving jail terms in a reformatory in central China, but authorities said they died naturally and no guards were involved.

Hunan Provincial judicial authorities are investigating the case, but Peng Siqing, head of the reformatory, denied the existence of any prison violence.

The family of Xiao Hai°?xing was told by Hunan Provincial Reformatory on March 2 that the 19-year-old was in critical condition and receiving treatment at a hospital in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, Oriental Outlook magazine said in its latest edition.

Xiao had been sentenced to five years in the reformatory in January 2007 for robbery. His elder brother told the magazine Xiao had blood in his bodily fluids when they went to see him at the hospital.

The family were told Xiao might have a lung infection and that his organs were failing. He was declared dead at 7:34pm on March 3.

Xiao's brother said he saw cuts and bruises on his head, neck and hands, and wounds around his joints. There were also bruises covering his back, arms and inner thighs.

"A strip of skin about 20 centimeters long and 7cm wide had been scraped off his left buttock," Xiao's elder brother told the magazine.

The autopsy report said a 10cm cut was found on Xiao's head. The reformatory said it was because Xiao was scratched by glasses.

Xiao's family tried to get him released for medical treatment and a psychological evaluation in October 2008 but repeated applications were turned down until February. A medical check on February 2 said Xiao might be suffering depression and a urinary-tract inflammation.

Xiao reportedly told his elder brother after the Spring Festival that a reformatory officer had beaten him.

When Xiao's family visited him on February 6, they said he was carried out to see them by two other inmates. Family members said he was pale, shivering, couldn't speak or recognize any of them.

Xiao had a skin disease that led to organ failure, investigating prosecutors said. An autopsy showed no trace of fatal trauma, they added. However, Xiao's father has demanded 400,000 yuan (US$58,505) in compensation.

Meanwhile, Qiu Xiaolong, 18, was found unconscious in a cell at the same reformatory on March 6 and was later certified dead at a hospital. Qiu, who was serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for robbery, would have been freed on October 24.

Qiu's father says he had cuts and bruises on his body. One of his ribs was also broken. An autopsy determined he died of respiratory failure. Qiu's father asked for 90,000 yuan and later lowered it to 50,000 to pay for Qiu's funeral.


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