MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ An inmate paroled after spending nearly 15 years on Alabama's death row and drawing international attention feels vindicated to be headed for freedom, his attorney said Tuesday.

Johnny Harris has spent the last 21 years behind bars on charges including murder and rape. His years of court battles were monitored by human rights groups that portrayed him as a victim of racism.

But on Monday, the three-member Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles ordered his release in two weeks.

''We are delighted that, in this instance, some real justice has been done,'' said anti-death penalty activist Lucia Penland, head of the Alabama Prison Project.

Ruth Borquin, an attorney for Harris, said his release was not totally unexpected since he had had two previous parole hearings in recent years.

''He feels finally vindicated in some ways,'' Ms. Borquin said. She said he will work at upholstery while cooperating with the state in his transition back into the life he left as a teen-ager in Birmingham.

She said the parole board met with Harris about a year ago ''and the force of his personality came through to them. He's made the most of the time he's been incarcerated, getting his G.E.D. (high school equivalency degree) and learning a lot of skills.''

State Attorney General Jimmy Evans' office opposed Harris' release.

''The facts in this case are a strong indication that, if paroled, Harris would pose a serious threat of danger to the safety and welfare of society,'' Evans said in a letter to the board.

He was sentenced to die for the killing of a prison guard during a 1974 inmate riot. But his conviction in that case was thrown out in 1989. He remained in prison under five life sentences he received in 1970 for a rape and robbery in Jefferson County.

''It was time to let him out. He didn't stand accused of the murder anymore,'' said Jack Shows, a member of the parole board.

Harris was not present for Monday's parole hearing.

During the 1970s, Harris' case drew protests from Amnesty International and Soviet bloc journals, where he was depicted as a black man victimized by a racist system.

Harris was imprisoned at Fountain Correctional Center near Atmore when the riot broke out. He was convicted in the stabbing death of a guard who was taken hostage during the uprising.

Harris denied killing the guard, but was sentenced to die under a Civil War-era statute that required the death penalty for a life-term prisoner convicted of first-degree murder.

He won a new trial in 1981 and again was convicted. The death sentence was set aside in 1987, and Harris' murder conviction was declared unconstitutional in 1989.

Harris was one of several black inmates accused of leading the riot. One of them was found hanged in a county jail while awaiting trial. Other inmates received life terms or lesser sentences.