Food joke could land Briton in Kyrgyz prison

BISHKEK - A British employee of Kyrgyzstan's biggest gold mine has been detained by police and could face up to five years in prison after comparing a national dish to a horse penis, triggering a brief strike by miners.

Michael Mcfeat posted several photos of workplace celebrations on Facebook on New Year's eve, commenting that Kyrgyz employees were queuing for their "special delicacy, the horse's penis".

The national dish, "chuchuk", is a sausage made from horse meat and intestines.

The comments prompted a strike on Saturday at the Kumtor mine, the local miners' trade union said in a statement on Sunday. The mine is at the centre of a dispute between the government and Canada's Centerra Gold.

Mcfeat is being questioned by police in the Kyrgyz city of Karakol but has not been charged, a police spokesman said.

Mcfeat has since deleted the comment and posted an apology, but the trade union said his actions had constituted a criminal offence by inciting hatred, which is punishable by three to five years in prison. Workers have demanded appropriate punishment and an apology from the company.

Kyrgyzstan's government and Centerra have been in talks for about two years on a new agreement which would define their share in the mine's profits, but the negotiations have failed to produce a deal so far.