Peru to deport tourists over Machu Picchu damage

©Agence France-Presse

A stone block that fell from a wall in Machu Picchu's Temple of the Sun was chipped after hitting the ground, officials say

Lima (AFP) - Five tourists arrested for damaging Peru's iconic Machu Picchu site will be deported to Bolivia later on Wednesday, police said.

A sixth was released from custody and ordered to remain in Machu Picchu pending trial after paying bail of $910.

The six tourists -- four men and two women -- were arrested for damaging Peru's "cultural heritage" after being found in a restricted area of the Temple of the Sun on Sunday.

They were also suspected of defecating inside the 600-year-old temple, an important edifice in the Inca sanctuary.

"We've got the order. Today the five foreign tourists will be expelled," Cusco police official Edward Delgado told AFP.

"We're going to take them by road to the city of Desaguadero, on the border with Bolivia."

The border town, a nine-hour drive away, is the nearest frontier point to the southern Cusco region where Machu Picchu is located.

The sixth tourist, 28-year-old Nahuel Gomez, must sign at a local court every 10 days while awaiting trial.

He admitted to removing a stone slab from a temple wall that was chipped when it fell to the ground, causing a crack in the floor.

He could face four years in prison if found guilty of damaging Peru's cultural heritage.

Several parts of the semicircular Temple of the Sun are off limits to tourists for preservation reasons.

Worshipers at the temple would make offerings to the sun, which was considered the most important deity in the Inca empire as well as other pre-Inca civilizations in the Andean region.

The group -- made up of a Chilean, two Argentines, two Brazilians, including one of the women, and a French woman -- allegedly entered the Inca sanctuary on Saturday and hid on site so they could spend the night there -- which is prohibited.

A source with the public prosecutor's office told AFP that Nahuel admitted to the damage but said "it wasn't intentional, he only leant against the wall."

The Machu Picchu complex -- which includes three distinct areas for agriculture, housing and religious ceremonies -- is the most iconic site from the Inca empire, which ruled over a large swath of western South America for 100 years before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.

Machu Picchu, which means "old mountain" in the Quechua language indigenous to the area, is at the top of a lush mountain and was built during the reign of the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438-1471).