A right-wing religious group funded by US President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has won the first major legal battle in its fight to stay in a medieval monastery southeast of Rome. However, the organisation is now facing criminal prosecution.
In a ruling published yesterday following a hearing two weeks ago, three administrative judges definitively rejected the ministry of culture’s attempt to revoke a 19-year lease it granted over two years ago to the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI), a Catholic lobby group, for the Certosa di Trisulti, a spectacular abbey built by Carthusian monks in the 13th century on the top of a densely-forested mountain.
The lease was awarded as part of an initiative to involve the private sector in the management of abandoned cultural sites in Italy.
The judges concluded that the ministry had failed to act within the prescribed time limit for the annulment of public contracts. The verdict is an embarrassing defeat for the Italian ministry of culture which had argued that the time limit should not apply because the DHI made “false and mendacious” statements in its application for the lease, an allegation which the administrative judges say the ministry failed to provide evidence for.
The judges further noted that the ministry of culture’s allegations against the DHI need to be proven in a criminal court before the lease awarded to the religious group can be revoked.