Italy Can Evict Steve Bannon’s School for Far-Right ‘Gladiators’ From an 800-Year-Old Monastery, the Country’s Top Court Rules

The decision effectively ends a years-long court battle between the former Trump strategist and the Italian Culture Ministry.

The Trisulti Monastery Certosa di Trisulti in Collepardo. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli /AFP/Getty Images.

Italy’s Council of State, the top administrative court in the country, has delivered a decisive ruling against Steve Bannon and his would-be school for far-right nationalists housed in an 800-year-old mountaintop monastery.

This week, the tribunal ruled that the state has the right to revoke the 19-year lease it granted Bannon in 2017 to open his school, the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, at the Monastery of Trisultiin, according to the Associated Press. The decision effectively overturned a ruling made by a regional administrative court last year.

In the 40-page ruling, the court found that Bannon and his business partner Benjamin Harnwell, a former aide to a conservative British member of the European Parliament, “obtained an economic advantage (winning the concession of a culturally relevant asset via a process of selection) on the basis of declarations made at the time of the bid that were subsequently shown to be not true.” 

Benjamin Harnwell, right, listens as former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, speaks with a reporter on his terrace at Hotel de Russie, 2018, in Rome. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

In other words, it decided that they lied on their lease application about their qualifications to maintain such a site—as well as their intentions for it. Evicting the Bannon’s institute would be in the “public interest,” the ruling said.

Bannon, Trump’s former chief White House strategist, was quick to speak out against the court’s decision, calling it a “joke which brings further shame on Italy’s already-stained judiciary in the eyes of the whole world” in a statement. “We refuse to be stopped by the corrupt bureaucracy that infests Italian government and hurts the Italian people,” he added.

The institute did not immediately respond to a request for further comment. 

The lease awarded to Bannon and Harnwell proved to be immediately controversial after it was revealed that the duo planned to use the 13th-century building to train “modern gladiators” in the “Judeo-Christian tradition.” Locals staged numerous protests against the academy and, in the summer of 2019, Italy’s Culture Ministry moved to evict the group from the premises—a move that spawned numerous battles in local courts.

Nicola Zingaretti, president of the Lazio region where the monastery is located, praised the council’s conclusive decision this week, vowing to “restore this wonderful place” to the Italian people. “We want it to become one of the symbols of the Italian rebirth,” he said.

Bannon, meanwhile, added that he intends to appeal the decision, though it’s unclear whether he has the right to do so. “Trisulti is an Italian treasure and we will fight for it,” he said.

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