Rwanda's first post-genocide president has been released from prison after being pardoned for convictions that included inciting ethnic tension.

Pasteur Bizimungu walked out of prison Friday shortly after President Paul Kagame issued the surprise pardon.

Bizimungu was serving a 15-year jail sentence. In 2004, a Rwandan court convicted him of charges of corruption and threatening state security in addition to encouraging ethnic division.

Last year, Bizimungu filed an appeal to Rwanda's Supreme Court, saying the charges against him were politically motivated but the high court upheld his convictions.

Bizimungu, a Hutu, became president in 1994 in a reconciliation government after Hutu extremists killed 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus. He resigned in 2000 after a falling out with Mr. Kagame.

His release comes on the 13th anniversary of the start of the genocide.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.