An Italian Court Says Steve Bannon’s Far-Right Group Can Fight Its Eviction From a Medieval Monastery

Bannon’s right-hand man compares the Ministry of Culture’s arguments to Maurizio Cattelan's banana.

Steve Bannon. Photo Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.
Steve Bannon. Photo Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

The same day that his former boss, Donald J. Trump, became the third U.S. president ever to be impeached in the House of Representatives, former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon was handed a much more favorable outcome in a legal battle with Italy’s Culture Ministry.

In the latest round in a months-long court battle, Bannon’s Dignitatis Humanae Institute has won an appeal of the Ministry’s decision to evict the Institute from Certosa di Trisulti, a 13th-century monastery on an Italian mountaintop, The Art Newspaper reports. There, the Institute, co-founded with Benjamin Harnwell, a former aide to a conservative British member of the European Parliament, plans to train “modern gladiators” who will promote a right-wing “Judeo-Christian” worldview against what Bannon terms growing “secularist intolerance.”

After the Institute inked a 19-year lease with an annual rent of $112,000, some locals and politicians protested, and the Ministry moved on October 16 to revoke the lease, saying, in part, that its conditions had not been met. For example, it said, tenants must have a proven track record of caring for cultural landmarks. It also asserted that Harnwell had made false statements in his application to the Ministry. On December 5, the Ministry ordered the DHI to vacate the premises within 10 days, but a ruling from the administrative court of the Lazio region has ruled that the group can contest that order.

“The DHI has strenuously maintained from the beginning that the annulment of the lease was a totally illegitimate act driven by Italy’s powerful left for political, not legal, considerations,” said Harnwell in a statement quoted by TAN. Dismissively comparing the Ministry’s case to a certain conceptual artwork that recently went viral, he went on, “The court’s provisional ruling indicates that it also sees the Ministry of Culture’s arguments as little more than the legal equivalent of a banana taped to a wall.”

The Ministry plans to appeal the decision.

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