ATHENS, Greece — A Greek court has given four-year suspended prison sentences to two Bulgarian women who smeared centuries-old artifacts in three Athens museums with frying oil for apparently religious reasons.

Defense lawyer Maria Constantopoulou said her clients said they believed they were ridding the world of evil spirits and purifying the artifacts — all Christian-era — by anointing them with oil.

She told The Associated Press that the one defendant clutched a Bible as she addressed the Athens court Tuesday and quoted extensively from the Scriptures to explain her acts.

Police arrested the two cleaning ladies, aged 51 and 48, this month in a museum after guards, on the alert after two recent, similar attacks in other museums, saw them smearing a display case.

Many of the damaged artifacts required extensive conservation.