BISHKEK – A British man working at a foreign-owned gold mine in Kyrgyzstan has been detained and faces up to five years in jail for comparing a local delicacy to a horse penis, authorities said Sunday.
An interior ministry spokesman said Michael Mcfeat, an employee of Toronto-based Centerra Gold, was detained by police after posting the comment on Facebook, which caused a temporary strike at the mine.
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.
Mcfeat now faces racial hatred charges, which can entail 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 percent of ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan’s economic output, resumed on Sunday after a short strike.
Mcfeat later deleted the post and issued an apology on his Facebook page, saying he had not meant to offend anyone.
Horse meat including offal is a popular delicacy in both Kyrgyzstan and neighboring 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 percent stake in Centerra, and until last month had been trying to swap that for a 50 percent stake in the Kumtor mine.
The government walked out of negotiations on December 22, promising to present a new proposal for restructuring the mine’s ownership.