Home Politics Former Trump advisor announces defence against lease revocation of Trisulti Charterhouse

Former Trump advisor announces defence against lease revocation of Trisulti Charterhouse

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Seen as a threat to Italian culture and politics, right-wing populism, which has been on the increase in sections of Europe in recent years, has left societies with a choice between nationalistic sentiment, and a more open and inclusive society.

During a summer of discontent, the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI), the conservative Catholic organisation challenged the revocation of its tenancy of the sprawling Charterhouse of Collepardo in Trisulti, Italy, co-leased by none other than Mr. Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former political advisor.

Milan-based broadcaster, Telefriuli, caught up with Benjamin Harnwell, the British-born director of DHI, a self-proclaimed far-right group, on its September 23rd episode of FOCUS, also interviewing Italian officials close to the events.

Mr. Harnwell was asked about the status of repairs to the monastery following the storms in spring, saying that work was underway to repair damaged sections of the roof. He went on to say that having extended the lease in February 2019, DHI was required by “[Italy’s] former minister of culture, Alberto Bonisoli, [who] believed he had found irregularities and suspended work on the monastery June through September, and that [we have been] working full time for three-and-a-half months with a team of four lawyers in order to defend ourselves” against what he called ‘unjust accusations’ that were ‘politically motivated.’

Bonisoli is a member of the 5-Star Movement, an anti-establishment party with left-wing tendencies.

Mr. Harnwell continued, “The political left in Italy has acted in such a way to polarise our presence here” staging several marches in the surrounding area of the monastery, situated some 70km east of Rome, Italy. “There would basically be political activists pretending to be ordinary citizens; you can see clearly from footage on YouTube or on the news they were activists wrapped in rainbow flags.”

Mr. Harnwell stated on an earlier occasion that the monastery was set to be “the global headquarters of the fight to defend the Judeo-Christian basis of Western civilization.”

The DHI Foundation maintains the business dealings with the Italian government were legitimate.

“The Italian ministry put this monastery out to public tender so that a private organization could come in and invest on these works, and so save the Italian taxpayer from having to pay for it” Mr. Harnwell continued. “It’s simply not the case that it is in a state of neglect.”

While Mr. Harnwell’s claims seem justified, there has been concern from senior Italian officials and scholars alike. Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also does not appear sympathetic to the school. He said his newly formed coalition would lead a “more united, inclusive” country following the collapse of the country’s populist government in August. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party, once bitter foes, have agreed to a coalition to stave off snap elections in the eurozone’s third largest economy.

Seen as a threat to Italian culture and politics, right-wing populism, which has been on the increase in sections of Europe in recent years, has left societies with a choice between nationalistic sentiment, and a more open and inclusive society.

Daniela Bianchi, a Councillor for the Lazio Region of the Democratic Party, said, “The actions pursued by the DHI are illegitimate, and made false statements in many cases.”

Adjunct Professor of Political History at Rome’s Luiss University said, “The project to create a political school in Trisulti has been a failure.”

Italy’s Minister of Culture has personally ensured Mr. Bannon’s shoe-in with DHI will come to nothing at the mountaintop monastery. With populism and nationalism finding a home in several European countries, and with similarly strong reactions from liberal movements, the populism vs centrism debate continues.

Claire James
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