Sana’a: A British man on trial in Yemen for attempting to smuggle artefacts out of the southern Arabian country said Monday he had thought they were merely Bedouin souvenirs.

The financial manager was arrested in January when the objects were found in his suitcase as he prepared to fly to Mexico on holiday, according to the charge sheet.

His Yemeni oil firm posted bail, and his trial began Monday.

“I thought these stones were homemade by bedouins. I wanted to take them as souvenirs, and I had no idea that they were artefacts,” the defendant said in court, according to an Arabic translation.

The prosecution accused the man of attempting to smuggle artefacts that are owned by the state, and of buying nine antiques from Yemenis in the provinces of Marib and Hadramout.

The judge ordered the prosecution to bring in the confiscated items, setting a new hearing for March 10.

Around 1,500 antiques, including coins and pre-Islamic stone carvings, have been confiscated at Sana’a airport over seven years, local media reported in March 2013.

Yemen was the site of ancient civilisations, including the kingdom of Saba.