HEILBRONN, Germany (Reuters) - A German labor court on Tuesday barred the public disclosure of documents relating to Volkswagen's <VOWG_p.DE> emissions scandal during a hearing for wrongful dismissal brought by a former employee at VW subsidiary Audi <NSUG.DE>.
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 United States.
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.
"I regret that the public was barred," said Hans-Georg Kauffeld, the lawyer for Ulrich Weiss, the engineer who was fired by Audi last week following investigations into the scandal.
Kauffeld declined to comment further to reporters.
Audi admitted in November 2015 that its 3.0 liter V6 diesel engines were fitted with an auxiliary control device deemed illegal in the United States that allowed vehicles to evade U.S. emission limits.
VW in December agreed to a $1 billion settlement to fix or buy back about 80,000 polluting diesel vehicles sold in the country.
Audi's lawyer, Christian Bitsch of law firm Bluedex, told the court on Tuesday 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.
(Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach; writing by Andreas Cremer; editing by David Clarke)