Tourist Arrested for Picking Up Piece of Parthenon

Greek authorities arrested and charged a 16-year-old Canadian girl who allegedly took a piece of marble from the grounds of the 2,500-year-old Parthenon (search) while posing for a photograph.

Madelaine Gierc (search), of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, was arrested Sunday after a security guard saw her picking up a stone near the ancient monument on the Acropolis (search). Gierc was charged with illegally possessing antiquities.

Investigating magistrate Melpomeni Chiotou ordered Gierc released from custody Tuesday and said she could leave the country, pending trial, court officials said. No trial date was set.

The charges carry a maximum of 10 years in prison, though such severe sentences are rarely imposed.

"The fact that I was in prison was scary. I've never done anything like that before," Gierc told The Associated Press after her release.

Gierc said she picked up a stone — measuring about 5 inches-by-5 inches — to pose for a photograph on a school trip.

"I was thinking I would put the rock back where it was and it would all be dropped ... They said it was marble but it was a yellow color and dirty and dusty and just looked like a rock," Gierc said.

She said she would return to Greece to stand trial if she could get time off from school.

"I love the atmosphere, I love the people, everyone's so nice," she said.

The grounds of the Acropolis are closely monitored to deter unscrupulous souvenir hunters. Under Greece's strict protection laws, it is illegal to own, buy, sell or excavate antiquities without a special permit. Items found accidentally must be handed over to authorities.

Police gave no details concerning the location from where the rock allegedly was removed.

Gierc's father, Tom, flew to Athens from Canada on Tuesday and described the arrest as a misunderstanding.

"We're just simple people. She's a simple girl," Tom Gierc, 42, said. "There's more important things in the world than a piece of stone ... I'm sure it's more a misunderstanding than anything else."