German automaker Volkswagen said Wednesday it was investigating accusations that it collaborated with Brazil's former military dictatorship, allowing employees to be detained and tortured.
The allegations were made in a civil suit filed Tuesday by former employees and activists, who allege that 12 former employees were tortured at Volkswagen's Sao Bernardo do Campo plant near Sao Paulo during the dictatorship, which ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985.
"The company is contacting the parties involved to learn their versions about acts committed by former employees during the military dictatorship. Detailed investigations are being conducted," VW said in a statement to AFP.
The lawsuit comes as VW confronts a separate scandal in which the German automaker admitted 11 million of its diesel cars are equipped with devices that can cheat air pollution tests.
Lawyers who brought the Brazilian suit said they are seeking "collective reparations" for VW's actions during the military regime, rather than case-by-case settlements or criminal charges.
"Volkswagen was not the only company involved, but it had an intelligence role in Sao Paulo and even coordinated other" companies, Sebastiao Neto, one of the officials of the Workers' Forum for Truth, Justice and Activism told AFP.
"The documents we have against it are devastating in the sense that they allowed a police state inside the company or arrests at people's work places," he said.
Lawyers who worked for the National Truth Commission charged with investigating rights abuses under the military also have joined the suit.
The allegations must be investigated by government prosecutors, who can reach a settlement with Volkswagen or bring the case to trial.