An engineer in northern Germany who was sacked because he married a Chinese woman was unjustifiably dismissed, a court has ruled.

The man was declared a security risk by his employer after his marriage because of his new family ties.

The company acted as a supplier for the German armed forces and feared possible industrial espionage.

But the court said the engineer's employer had violated his right to marry whomever he chose.

The employment tribunal in Kiel in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein was told that the 47-year-old engineer had been employed at the firm on a temporary basis since May 2006.

Neither the engineer nor the firm was named in now-published reports of the case, whose verdict was pronounced in June.

Arbitrary dismissal

From 2007 on, the man travelled regularly to China to see his girlfriend and reportedly received security clearance for his trips. Not only did the firm raise no objections, the court heard, but in 2009 it even offered him a permanent job.

As the couple had planned to marry in China in December 2009, the firm agreed that his permanent contract would begin in February 2010.

But just weeks later, on 5 March 2010, the engineer was suspended for what were described as security concerns. In June last year, he was fired. The firm cited "operational reasons".

The employment tribunal said the man's dismissal was arbitrary: it found that his situation had not been changed by his marriage, and his employer's sudden mention of a security risk was not supported by the facts.

Altogether, said the judges, the sacking of the German engineer had violated all right-thinking people's norms of decency.

Under the settlement, the man was awarded compensation equivalent to seven months' salary.