A Briton working at a gold mine in Kyrgyzstan has been detained and faces up to five years in jail for comparing a local delicacy to a horse penis, according to authorities.
Police detained Michael Mcfeat, an employee of the Toronto-based Centerra Gold, after he posted the comment on Facebook, which caused a temporary strike at the mine, an interior ministry spokesman said on Sunday.
Mcfeat wrote that his Kyrgyz colleagues were queueing for their “special delicacy, the horse’s penis” during holiday celebrations, referring to a traditional horse sausage known as chuchuk.
He now faces racial hatred charges, which can result in between three to five years in prison under Kyrgyz law.
A local trade union leader confirmed that work at the mine, which accounts for up to 10% of the former Soviet republic’s economic output, resumed on Sunday after a short strike.
Mcfeat later deleted the post and apologised on his Facebook page, saying he had not meant to offend anyone.
A group of people in the picture that he had originally posted with the comments had “ absolutely nothing to do with it”, he added.“I would like to take the opportunity to sincerely appologise [sic] for the comment I made on here about the kygyz people and horses penis,” he wrote. “I truly never meant to offened anyone and im truly sorry as it was never my intension [sic].”
Horse meat, including offal, is a popular delicacy in both Kyrgyzstan and neighbouring Kazakhstan, where nomadic traditions have been revived since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Kyrgyz government is currently in an ownership standoff with Centerra, which wholly owns the Kumtor gold mine and operates it through a subsidiary.
Kyrgyzstan holds a 32.7% stake in Centerra, and until last month had been trying to swap that for a 50% stake in the Kumtor mine.
The government walked out of negotiations on 22 December, promising to present a new proposal for restructuring the mine’s ownership.
A foreign office spokesman said of Mcfeat’s detention: “We’re in contact with local authorities and are ready to provide consular assistance.”