A British man working at a Canadian-owned gold mine in Kyrgyzstan could face up to five years in jail for comparing a local delicacy to a horse penis, officials have said.
Michael Mcfeat, an employee of Toronto-based Centerra Gold, was detained by police after posting a comment on Facebook, which caused a temporary strike at the Kumtor mine, an interior ministry spokesman told AFP news agency.
In the offending post, Mr Mcfeat said his Kyrgyz colleagues were queueing for their "special delicacy, the horse's penis" during holiday celebrations in reference to a traditional horse sausage known as ‘chuchuk’.
His remarks sparked a furious response among the workers, with "more than 120" of them signing a petition calling for his arrest, a ministry statement said.
Mr Mcfeat, who is currently being held by police, could face racial hatred charges punishable by a jail term of up to five years, it said.
A British embassy representative confirmed that officials were in touch with both Centerra and the local authorities over the matter.
Following the uproar, the Briton deleted his remarks and posted an apology on Facebook, saying he had not meant to offend anyone.
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.
Located some 350km south east of the capital Bishkek, Kumtor mine is one of Kyrgyzstan's biggest assets and accounts for up to 10% of the nation's economic output.
A local trade union leader confirmed that work at the mine had resumed on Sunday after a brief strike.
In March, local lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan made international headlines by threatening the government with a vote of no confidence unless it got to grips with allegations that donkey meat was being sold as beef and lamb in the cafes of the capital Bishkek.
And in 2011, MPs ritually slaughtered seven sheep in parliament to exorcise "evil spirits" from the chamber after a wave of bloody ethnic violence and regime change a year earlier.