HEILBRONN, Germany -- A German labor court barred the public disclosure of documents relating to Volkswagen Group's emissions scandal during a hearing for wrongful dismissal brought by a former employee at VW subsidiary Audi.
The hearing in Heilbronn in southern Germany began in public but Audi's lawyers requested confidentiality when the plaintiff's lawyer mentioned an email exchange in 2012 between engineers about emissions of Audi cars in the U.S.
The court accepted Audi's motion and judge Carsten Witt asked observers to leave the hearing so the emails and other documents could be discussed behind closed doors.
Hans-Georg Kauffeld, the lawyer for Ulrich Weiss, an engineer fired by Audi last week, said: "I regret that the public was barred." He declined to comment further to reporters.
Weiss, who had been on paid leave since the scandal broke, is one of four engineers fired by Audi from its diesel division. According to German media, the automaker's former head of emissions in the U.S. is also among the group.
Audi admitted in November 2015 that its 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engines were fitted with an auxiliary control device deemed illegal in the U.S. that allowed vehicles to evade U.S. emission limits. VW Group in December agreed to a $1 billion settlement to fix or buy back about 80,000 polluting diesel vehicles sold in the U.S.
Audi's lawyer, Christian Bitsch, told the court that Kauffeld's client knew about the emissions manipulations in September 2015 but failed to inform his superiors. Bitsch also accused the engineer of destroying documents and encouraging his staff to do likewise.
Kauffeld rejected the allegations.
An Audi spokesman told Automotive News Europe on Monday that the four engineers had been dismissed for "gross breach of duty."
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report