Vancouver startup helps WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange pay legal expenses

International non-profit organisation and website WikiLeaks launched in 2006 and claimed a database of more than 1.2 million private, secret, and classified documents within a year of its launch.

But it wasn’t until 2010 that WikiLeaks and its fearless editor-in-chief Julian Assange hit primetime.

In April WikiLeaks posted video from a 2007 incident in which Iraqi civilians and journalists were killed by US forces. In July WikiLeaks released Afghan War Diary, a compilation of more than 76,900 documents about the War in Afghanistan not previously available for public review. In October WikiLeaks released a package of almost 400,000 documents called the Iraq War Logs in coordination with major commercial media organisations. And finally in November, WikiLeaks began releasing U.S. State department diplomatic cables.

Not surprisingly WikiLeaks and Assange have received equal doses of praise and criticism.

Last year the New York City Daily News listed WikiLeaks first among websites “that could totally change the news” and Assange was named the Readers’ Choice for TIME’s Person of the Year. But in the US many believe that Assange should be treated as a terrorist.

Assange is currently wanted for questioning in Sweden regarding alleged sexual offences after being arrested in London in December. He is currently on bail and under house arrest in England pending an extradition hearing next week. Assange has denied the allegations and claims that they are politically motivated.

2010 ended with a major blow to WikiLeaks as Visa, MasterCard and PayPal refused to support any “activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity” and began choking off donations to the site.

With Assange’s legal troubles likely just beginning, a trust fund has been set up to pay Assange’s growing legal expenses.

And Assange has turned to Vancouver startup FundRazr to collect donations online. FundRazr allows anyone to collect money for a campaign, a cause, group, team, club or organization through their Facebook app. FundRazr has partnered with PayPal to provide easy and safe payments by credit card, debit, and PayPal account.

While the PayPal connection seems a little ironic, Assange’s online campaign makes it very clear that donations are only to the Julian Assange Defence Fund. Donations will only be used to pay Assange’s legal fees with NONE of the money being used to fund WikiLeaks operations.

Love him or hate him, Assange’s Defence Fund is a pretty impressive customer for a Vancouver-based startup.