September 10, 2018 / 3:48 PM / 16 days ago

Greece questions two women over dousing museum relics with oil

ATHENS (Reuters) - Police in Greece are questioning two women suspected of squirting or dabbing oil on artefacts in at least two museums in a ritual the suspects said was dictated by Bible teachings.

An exhibition banner is seen at the entrance of the Byzantine Museum in Athens, Greece September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

The stains, which Greek media reports said had appeared on items such as icons, marble columns and inscribed tablets displayed at the Christian and Byzantine Museum in July, had befuddled authorities. Some smears also appeared at the Benaki Museum about a month later.

People exit the Byzantine Museum in Athens, Greece September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

But on Sunday, a clerk at the National Historical Museum at Old Parliament House in Athens alerted guards when a woman showed up with a companion with what appeared to be an oily hand.

“I noticed that one of the ladies had a greasy hand ... I alerted the guards and drew their attention to it,” the unnamed clerk told Greece’s Alpha TV.

Police officials said the two women were under investigation for attempting to damage public property. In both cases the damage was minor.

A guard patrols the premises of the Byzantine Museum in Athens, Greece September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

According to Greece’s state run Athens News Agency, the suspects told police they thought the oil had healing properties and that, they said, dousing relics was dictated by the Bible. They had a bottle in their possession when they were arrested.

Both told police they had no intention of causing any damage while one said she was a member of a religious group, judicial sources said on Monday.

The women, who spent a short time in detention before being released, face misdemeanor charges under Greek law.

The two museums said at the time they were investigating the incidents but have not commented publicly since then.

Reporting by Constantinos Georgizas; Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Alison Williams

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