A journalist yesterday filed a constitutional application claiming that his right to freedom of expression had been violated by libel proceedings filed against him by the heirs of the late Sir Paul Boffa.

John Mizzi claimed in his application that he was a senior journalist and had, until a few years ago, been a correspondent for the English newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

In February 1994, Mr Mizzi had sent a letter for publication in The Sunday Times under the heading A Yacht Marina for Xemxija? Some time later, architect Joseph Boffa, one of the heirs of the late Sir Paul Boffa, had filed a libel suit against Mr Mizzi, claiming that the letter was libellous in his father's regard.

Mr Mizzi, who was a close friend of Sir Paul Boffa, had claimed that no libel action could be filed by a dead person, but this plea was dismissed by both the First Hall of the Civil Court and the Court of Appeal.

In June of last year, the Court of Appeal had found that Mr Mizzi had libelled Sir Paul Boffa. Mr Mizzi was ordered to pay the heirs Lm300 in libel damages.

But Mr Mizzi submitted yesterday that this award was a disproportionate interference in his right to freedom of expression.

He added that his right to a fair hearing had also been violated because the courts had delivered judgment on a libel action that could not legally have been filed, as a dead person could not file a libel action.

The court was requested to declare that Mr Mizzi's fundamental human rights had been violated and to provide him with a remedy.

Lawyer Tonio Azzopardi acted for Mr Mizzi.