• American actor known as Mos Def arrives at the Bellville magistrates court in Bellville , South Africa, Tuesday, March. 8, 2016. (AAP)
American rapper Mos Def has appeared briefly in a South African court on charges of presenting a "world passport" when trying to fly out of the country.
8 Mar 2016 - 9:35 PM  UPDATED 8 Mar 2016 - 9:35 PM

The 42-year-old hip hop artist, actor and activist Mos Def, whose real name is Dante Terrel Smith, was first turned away from the court because he refused to remove a turban he was wearing.

As a small group of photographers and video journalists recorded the incident, he left and returned later with a loose scarf draped over his head and shoulders, which allowed a security search.

Mos Def, who was listed on the court roll under one of his other names, Yassin Bey, was accompanied by a small group of friends into the magistrates' court in the working class suburb of Bellville in Cape Town.

He refused to speak to reporters, and waited expressionlessly among groups of glum witnesses and suspects waiting to be called for cases such as theft and assault.

When he was called, Bey, bearded and wearing dark glasses, a striped headscarf and loose black outfit under a charcoal jacket, loped into the dock and stood quietly, leaning forward on the wooden rails.

Prosecutors requested a two-week postponement of the hearing and he will remain free on bail of 5,000 rand (about $435) until his next hearing on March 24. He was not required to speak.

Bey was arrested in Cape Town in January while attempting to board a flight to Ethiopia.

The Department of Home Affairs said the actor had entered South Africa with a legitimate US passport in November, and had a visitor's visa valid until February.

But he tried to leave using a "World Government of World Citizens" passport," which is not recognised, home affairs director general Mkuseli Apleni told reporters.

The World Government of World Citizens was established in 1953 by the late peace activist Garry Davis, an American who renounced his citizenship after World War II.

Bey faces charges including using a false identity, and "aiding and abetting his family to stay illegally in South Africa".

His family's visas expired in April 2014, and they are still subject to court proceedings.

Bey is believed to have been living in Cape Town for several years.

In 2014, he cancelled a planned tour of the US due to what his publicists called "legal and immigration issues".

"I haven't broken any law. And I'm being treated like a criminal," he said in a message released via superstar rapper Kanye West's Twitter feed at the time of his arrest. 

In his acclaimed hip-hop career he has produced classic solo songs as well as albums with Talib Kweli in the duo Black Star.