Egyptian police say a jailed opposition activist has been found dead in his prison cell, apparently of suicide.

Police say they believe Ayman Hassan hanged himself with a bed sheet early Thursday morning in a Cairo prison. Hassan was a former aide to opposition leader Ayman Nour.

Hassan and Nour were sentenced to prison in December 2005 on charges of forging official documents required to establish the opposition Ghad party.

During the trial, Hassan initially testified against Nour, accusing him of involvement in forgery. But, Hassan later retracted his testimony and said it was coerced by security agents who had threatened to harm his family.

The Egyptian court ignored Hassan's retraction and later jailed him.

Opposition activists say Hassan recently complained to his family of mistreatment in prison.

Nour ran against President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential election in 2005. Nour finished a distant second and was jailed for alleged forgery several months later. He denies the charge.

U.S. President George W. Bush and other Western leaders have called on Egypt to release Nour on medical grounds. Nour has diabetes and heart problems.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.