May 27, 2020 / 9:50 AM / a month ago

Steve Bannon wins case to set up Italy political academy

ROME (Reuters) - Steve Bannon, the former adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, has won the latest phase of a legal battle with Italy’s culture ministry to set up a right-wing Catholic political academy.

FILE PHOTO: Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon departs after testifying in the criminal trial of Roger Stone, former campaign advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, on charges of lying to Congress, obstructing justice and witness tampering at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., November 8, 2019. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

The ministry said it would appeal the regional court’s decision.

The court ruled for the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, which Bannon backs, against a previous decision that blocked the school starting up in an 800-year-old monastery south of Rome.

“We stood by the monastery, the community and Italy during this pandemic when it would have been easy to walk way,” Bannon said on Wednesday in a statement issued through the institute’s founder, Benjamin Harnwell, in response to Tuesday’s ruling.

The Culture Ministry, which owns the property, said on Wednesday it would appeal the decision to a higher tribunal known as the Council of State.

Bannon, a Catholic, was helping to craft the curriculum for a leadership course aimed at right-wing Catholic activists at the Academy for the Judeo-Christian West in the town of Trisulti.

Many residents opposed the school and last year the ministry withdrew a 19-year lease, citing violations of contractual obligations. The institute appealed to the regional tribunal saying the move was politically motivated.

Harnwell said he hoped to resume restoration plans and that registration would begin for an on-line program taught from the United States.

While they still enjoy support from Italian right-wing politicians such as former interior minister Matteo Salvini, Bannon and Harnwell have lost key supporters within the Church.

Last year, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who for years strongly backed Bannon and was a honorary president of the institute, yanked his support after Bannon said he wanted to make a film from a book alleging widespread homosexuality in Vatican.

Cardinal Renato Martino, an Italian, also stepped down as honorary president last year.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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