A case of cream and punishment in France

Forget crippling strikes, allegations of corruption and social turmoil. The French political establishment was reeling yesterday after the shock decision of an appeal court gave Belgian surrealists licence to continue their violent attacks on politicians - using cream tarts as ammunition.

After dozens of attacks on showbiz personalities in the past decade, a Belgian humourist known as the Entarteur decided last year to switch his activities to politics. On the night of 21 May, he and two accomplices lay in wait outside the Hotel Carlton in Cannes. As Philippe Douste- Blazy, the French culture minister, left a reception for the film festival, the Entarteur darted forward and hurled his tarte a la creme, splattering two bodyguards instead of the target. While police wrestled him to the ground, a second Entarteur finished the job. Both were arrested and Jan Bucquoy, a Belgian artist and film-maker, was put on trial for attempted assault.

The practice of attacking famous people with cream tarts was started by another Belgian, Noel Gaudin, in the early Eighties. But he became too well-known at Cannes after a number of successful, but unpunished, attacks on prominent showbiz figures. Willing acolytes, Bucquoy included, donned false beards and stepped in to support him.

The group acts under the name "l'Entarteur". Their mission is to prick the pomposity of European public figures. A contract has been put out on John Major, with the Entarteur calling on British colleagues to follow the lead of the Belgians. "If no one takes up the challenge," says Bucquoy, "I shall have to do it myself." Also on the British hit list are Baroness Thatcher, Mick Jagger and the surviving Beatles. Should Tony Blair prove to be nothing more than a Conservative in disguise, he will shoot to the top of the list.

At the original trial in Grasse, the prosecutor demanded a six-month prison sentence. Bucquoy, defending himself, claimed that tart-throwing has been a traditional Belgian method of self-defence since the Middle Ages. It is also, he maintained, a legitimate form of artistic expression, continuing the strong Belgian traditions of Surrealism, Dadaism and Situationism. He apologised for splattering the bodyguards, blaming the inferior quality of Cannes patisserie for the spray effect.

The judge dismissed the case, but the head of the French prosecution service immediately appealed. According to Bucquoy, the second trial was held to punish him as a scapegoat for "patisserie terrorism" in the wake of the bomb attacks in Paris. The court upheld the first judgment, leaving Bucquoy to pun at liberty. "With the dismissal of the case, we have been given tarte blanche to attack any public figure we want. We use them [cream tarts] to show pompous, stuffed-up figures just how ridiculous they are."

Bucquoy expects to be donning his Entarteur's beard at Cannes next summer, where his new film Camping Cosmos, the sequel to The Sexual Life of Belgians, will be on show. "When I get on stage to receive the Palme d'Or, I will be pelting the audience with cream tarts," he says proudly. "Better than watching all those other boring films."

This new problem for the French judicial system is something that Belgium, has had to contend with for years. There, Bucquoy's paintings of Tintin violating his dog, Snowy, and pictures of the Belgian royal family in the nude have caused problems over the right to free expression and archaic laws protecting the royals. Bucquoy was recently arrested after beheading a bust of the King in the centre of Brussels. For the future, he has big ideas. "I want to invade Luxembourg," he says. Plans are already under way as soon as he can find a business sponsor and a Sherman tank.

For those wanting to join the alleged 30,000 members of the International Patisserie Brigade, from whose ranks are selected the Entarteurs of tomorrow, there is an annual training session, held in a secret location in the Ardennes from 15 to 30 August. The tarts are provided free, but you will need to take your own tent. This year, the training will focus on the use of catapults to launch tarts from a distance. This is a useful technique for such highly protected figures as the Pope, the Entarteur's number one target.

Budding cream-tart throwers unable to make it to the training camp can profit from the Entarteur's advice. Ensure your tart is compact, can be easily held in the hand or hidden, and can fly through the air without breaking up. The cream must be firm; the Entarteur's choice of cream is creme fraiche and the best tarts are, obviously, Belgian.

The next time you are asked to name five internationally famous Belgians, the Entarteur must be up there with Hercule Poirot, Tintin, King Leopold and that punk fellow who sang "Sa Plane Pour Moi" - he was Belgian, wasn't he?