Feb. 15, 2011 — -- This story has been updated.
President Barack Obama for the first time today stepped into the international firestorm surrounding the U.S. official accused of shooting two men in Pakistan, calling Raymond Davis "our diplomat" and urging his release on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.
"We've got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future, and that is, if our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country's local prosecution," Obama said in a press conference today. "We expect Pakistan, that's a signatory and recognizes Mr. Davis as a diplomat, to abide by the same convention... I'm not going to discuss the specific exchanges that we've had [with the Pakistani government], but we've been very firm about this being a priority."
Davis, 36, was arrested on Jan. 27 after allegedly shooting and killing two men, who the U.S. State Department said were trying to rob him, on the streets of Lahore, Pakistan. Last week, Lahore's police chief said the shooting was "an intentional and cold-blooded murder."
U.S. officials have repeatedly declined to answer questions about Davis' precise job in Pakistan, saying only he was a "member of the administrative and technical staff" of the Islamabad embassy and traveled on a diplomatic passport.
Public records show Davis has experience with the U.S. Special Forces and runs a small security company that provides "loss prevention specialists," according to the company website which is no longer active.
Earlier today Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, landed in Lahore, sent by the Obama administration in part to help secure Davis' release.
U.S. and Pakistani officials told ABC News that Kerry is expected to pressure officials in Lahore and Islamabad over Davis's case. One Pakistani official used the term "carrots and sticks" in predicting how Kerry's talks would be received.
But it's clear that Kerry may not secure Davis' release. Government officials in Islamabad and Lahore warned of widespread public anger once Davis is either freed by a judge or declared immune from prosecution -- and the fear of public discontent has led them to avoid even discussing the possibility of his release.
Upon arrival, Kerry told the local media he was there as a friend to Pakistan. It was rumored Kerry planned to meet with the families of the victims, some of which have been demanding Davis' execution, but U.S. officials later told ABC News that those meetings were never on the Senator's agenda.
Should Davis be released, Kerry said that the U.S. Department of Justice would investigate the shooting to ensure justice would be done.
Davis, who was recently transferred from the Lahore police station to a "high security facility," is being treated well, the U.S. Consul General in Lahore Carmela Conroy said today.
"Ray is being treated like a regular prisoner. He has no access to a television, telephone, internet or any other electronic devices, and cannot communicate directly with his family," said Conroy, who has had regular visits with Davis.
Pakistani Official Invokes Vienna Convention, Taliban Makes Threats
Obama's comments echoed a statement from the spokesperson for Pakistan's ruling party, who invoked the Vienna Convention and diplomatic immunity for the first time Monday as a possible avenue for the U.S. to secure Davis' release.
Fauzia Wahab, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Peoples Party, said that no diplomat can be kept in captivity and that Davis has an official diplomatic visa. The U.S. State Department has been demanding Davis' release based on the same points since his arrest.
Wahab's comments came a day after the Taliban issued a threat on the lives of anyone involved in Davis' release.
"Whether he is a judge, police, lawyer, army, policy maker or a politician, we will target him. We will kill him," a Taliban spokesman told The Associated Press Sunday.
Davis has become a political and intelligence football: he is caught between a federal government ruled by the Pakistan Peoples Party and a Punjab government led by the opposition, which is more skeptical of U.S. policies.
He's also caught in an intelligence power game because, according to Pakistani officials, he killed two men working for Pakistan's premiere intelligence agency. The agents, officials said, were following Davis because they suspected him of spying.