Steve Bannon, President Trump's controversial former top adviser, has emerged victorious in his quest to set up a "right-wing Catholic political academy" in Italy, per Reuters. A ruling released Tuesday notes that the Dignitatis Humanae Institute will be able to set up shop in an 800-year-old monastery to the south of Rome, through which an initial online program managed from the US will be offered during the coronavirus pandemic. The DHI had appealed a decision by Italy's culture ministry to revoke the 19-year lease the institute had been awarded more than two years ago, partly based on local opposition. The ministry said the revocation was due to contract violations; the DHI said it was politically motivated. "We stood by the monastery, the community, and Italy during this pandemic when it would have been easy to walk away," Bannon says in a statement.
"We now launch the program of learning and training that will make the world more prosperous, more secure, and more healthy for everyone," he added, per the Art Newspaper. That doesn't mean the DHI is completely in the clear. Founder Benjamin Harnwell was informed early Wednesday by the Rome attorney general's office that his organization is facing criminal prosecution. The Italian culture ministry's reasoning for trying to revoke the monastery's lease was that the institute made "false and mendacious" claims in its application for the lease, although the regional judges in the case said they couldn't find any evidence of that. They noted the lease can't be revoked until those allegations are proven in criminal court. Harnwell, meanwhile, denies the DHI has done anything wrong. (Read more Steve Bannon stories.)